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Full text of "Letters, sentences and maxims"

LORD CHESTERFIELD 

(Philip Dormer Stanhooe). 



LETTERS, SENTENCES <* 
^ ^ ^ AND MAXIMS 

By LORD CHESTERFIELD 



WITH A PREFATORY NOTE BY CHARLES SAYLE 

AND A CRITICAL ESSAY BY C. A. SAINTE- 

BEUVE, DE L'ACADEMIE FRANCAISE 




"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; 
Drink deep, or taste not the Castalian spring." 

POPE. 



A. L. BURT COMPANY, PUBLISHERS, 
52-58 DUANE STREET, NEW YORK ^ ^ 



"Viewed as compositions, they appear almost unrivalled 
for a serious epistolary style; clear, elegant, and terse, never 
straining at effect, and yet never hurried into carelessness." 
LORD MAHON, 1845. 

"In point of style, a finished classical work; they contain 
instructions for the conduct of life that will never be obsolete. 
Instinct with the most consummate good sense and knowledge 
of life and business, and certainly nothing can be more at 
tractive than the style in which they are set before their read 
ers." Quarterly Review, vol. Ixxvi., 1845. 

"Lord Chesterfield's letters are, I will venture to say, mas 
terpieces of good taste, good writing, and good sense." JOHN 
WILSON CROKER, 1846. 




PREFATORY NOTE 

BY CHARLES SAYLE. 



IT is a singular fate that has overtaken Lord 
Chesterfield. One of the more important figures 
in the political world of his time; one of the few 
Lord-Lieutenants of Ireland whose name was after 
ward-respected and admired; the first man to intro 
duce Voltaire and Montesquieu to England; and 
the personal acquaintance of men like Addison and 
Swift, Pope and Bolingbroke; the ally of Pitt 
and the enemy of three Georges ; though he married 
a king's daughter and took up the task of the world's 
greatest emperor; yet the record of his actions has 
passed away, and he is remembered now only by an 
accident. 

Lord Chesterfield lives by that which he never 
intended for publication, while that which he pub 
lished has already passed from the thoughts of men. 
It is one more example of the fact that our best 
work is that which is our heart's production. We 
have Lord Chesterfield's secret, and it bears witness 
to the strength of that part of him in which an 
intellectual anatomist has declared him to be defi- 

5 



6 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

cient a criticism which is but another proof of that 
which has been somewhere said of him, that he has 
had the fate to be generally misunderstood. Yet 
nothing is more certain than that Lord Chesterfield 
did not mean to be anything but inscrutable. "Dis 
similation is a shield," he used to say, "as secrecy is 
armor." "A young fellow ought to be wiser than 
he should seem to be, and an old fellow ought to 
seem wise whether he really be so or not." It is 
still worth while attempting to solve the problem 
which is offered to us by his inscrutability, not only 
on its own account, but because Lord Chesterfield 
is a representative spirit of the eighteenth century.* 

I. 

Philip Dormer Stanhope did not experience in 
his youth either of those influences which are so 
important in the lives of most of us. His mother 
died before he could know her, and his father was 
one of those living nonentities whom his biographer 
sums up in saying that "We know little more of him 
than that he was an Earl of Chesterfield." Indeed, 
what influence there may have been was of a nega 
tive kind, for he had, if anything, an avowed dislike 

* The greatest English writer of the present day thus sums 
up the eighteenth century: "An age of which Hoadly was 
the bishop, and Walpole the minister, and Pope the poet, and 
Chesterfield the wit, and Tillotson the ruling doctor." New 
man, Essays Critical and Historical, i. 388. 



PEEFATOEY NOTE. 9 

for his son. Naturally under these conditions he 
had to endure the slings and arrows of fortune alone 
and uncounselled. One domestic influence was 
allowed him in the mother of his mother, whose face 
still looks out at us from the pages of Dr. Maty, 
engraved by Bartolozzi from the original of Sir 
Peter Lely a face sweet, intellectual, open over 
the title of Gertrude Savile, Marchioness of Halifax. 
She it was v/ho undertook, at any rate to some small 
degree, the rearing of her daughter's child. Lord 
Chesterfield is rather a Savile than a Stanhope. 

He heard French from a Normandy nurse in his 
cradle, and he received, when he grew a little older, 
"such a general idea of the sciences as it is a dis 
grace to a gentleman not to possess." But it is not 
till he gets to Cambridge at the age of eighteen that 
we hear anything definite. He writes to his tutor 
of former days, whom he seems to have made a 
real friend, from Trinity Hall : 

"I find the college where I am infinitely the best in the 
university; for it is the smallest, and filled with lawyers who 
have lived in the world, and know how to behave. Whatever 
may be said to the contrary, there is certainly very little de 
bauchery in the university, especially amongst people of fashion, 
for a man must have the inclinations of a porter to endure 
it here." 

Thirty-six years later he draws for his son this 
picture of his college-life: 



8 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTERS. 

"As I make no difficulty of confessing my past errors, where 
I think the confession may be of use to you, I will own that, 
when I first went to the university, I drank and smoked, 
notwithstanding the aversion I had to wine and tobacco, only 
because I thought it genteel, and that it made me look a man." 

This touch of nature it is interesting to find in 
one who gave so much to the Graces. But to get at 
what he really did we may take the following : 

"It is now, Sir, I have a great deal of business upon my 
hands; for I spend an hour every day in studying civil law, 
and as much in philosophy ; and next week the blind man [Dr. 
Sanderson] begins his lectures upon the mathematics ; so that 
I am now fully employed. Would you believe, too, that I read 
Lucian and Xenophon in Greek, which is made easy to me; 
for I do not take the pains to learn the grammatical rules ; but 
the gentleman who is with me, and who is a living grammar, 
teaches me them all as I go along. I reserve time for playing 
at tennis, for I wish to have the corpus sanum as well as the 
mens sana: I think the one is not good for much without the 
other. As for anatomy, I shall not have an opportunity of 
learning it; for though a poor man has been hanged, the 
surgeon who used to perform those operations would not this 
year give any lectures, because, he says, . . . the scholars will 
not come. 

"Methinks our affairs are in a very bad way, but as I 
cannot mend them, I meddle very little in politics ; only I 
take a pleasure in going sometimes to the coffee house to 
see the pitched battles that are fought between the heroes of 
each party with inconceivable bravery, and are usually ter 
minated by the total defeat of a few tea-cups on both sides."* 

He only stayed in Cambridge two years, and then 
travelled abroad to Flanders and Holland. He had 

* For another, very different, view of the life and studies at 
Cambridge at the time, see the Life of Ambrose Bomvicke 
(1694-1714). 



PREFATORY NOTE. 9 

just left The Hague when the news reached him 
across the water which only then was not stale 
Queen Anne was dead. 

It was the turning point of his career, for his 
great-uncle, who had influence and position at the 
court, obtained for him from George I. the post 
of Gentleman of the Bedchamber to the Prince of 
Wales. At the same time he obtained a pocket- 
borough in Cornwall, and appeared in the House of 
Commons. He was not yet of age, of which fact a 
friend in the opposition politely and quietly 
informed him after he had made his first speech. 
He was, therefore, not only debarred from voting, 
but liable to a fine of 500. He made a low bow, 
left the House, and posted straightway to Paris. 

He was not there long. Advancing months soon 
removed the objection of age, and we find him again 
frequently in the House. His position on the 
Schism and Occasional Conformity Bills was one 
which he himself in after years regretted. He was 
still, however, swimming with the stream, and the 
stream led on to fortune. In 1723 he was made 
Captain of the Yeomen of the Guards, and two 
years later, when the Order of the Bath was revived, 
was offered by the King the red ribbon. But this he 
refused; and not contented with so much dis 
courtesy, objected to others accepting it. He wrote 



10 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

a ballad on Sir William Morgan, who had received 
the same offer. The ballad came to the ears of the 
King; and for this, or for other reasons, Stanhope 
the courtier lost his place. 

At this juncture two changes took place, to him 
of equal importance. George I. died and brought 
Stanhope's former master to the throne; and Lord 
Chesterfield died, leaving his son his title. The 
latter event raised him to the House of Lords the 
Hospital for Incurables, as Lord Chesterfield calls 
it. The former should have raised him to higher 
office still; but that policy of scheming for which 
Lord Chesterfield has become almost as famous as 
Macchiavelli in this case played him false. Believ 
ing that where marriage begins, love, as a necessary 
consequence, ends, he had paid all his attentions to 
the new King's mistress, while he was still Prince 
of Wales, and none to his queen. And Caroline of 
Anspach took precaution that when George II. came 
to the throne the courtier's negligence should be 
treated as it deserved. Thus at the age of thirty- 
three, while still a young man, Chesterfield was cut 
off from the Court: and he was already in opposi 
tion to Walpole. The King as a subterfuge offered 
him the post of Ambassador to Holland, and the 
offended courtier was thus removed. But political 
events were moving" rapidly, and in two years' time 



PREFATORY NOTE. 11 

it was rumored that Chesterfield would be reinstated 
in favor. The King, however, was still obdurate, 
and instead of Secretary of State he was made High 
Steward of the Household. Chesterfield remained 
in Holland, gambling and watching events. "I find 
treating with two hundred sovereigns of different 
tempers and professions," he writes, "is as laborious 
as treating with one fine woman, who is at least of 
two hundred minds in one day." 

The game went on for a year more. Then he 
was by his own wish recalled. On the 2d of May 
of this same year he was presented with a son by 
Mme. Du Bouchet. "A beautiful young lady at The 
Hague," says one writer, "set her wits against his 
and suffered the usual penalty ; she fell, and this son 
was the result." This son was the object of all Lord 
Chesterfield's care and affection. It was to him 
that his now famous letters were written. The 
father, we find, on his return to England, in the 
House talking indefatigably as ever. It was the 
year of Walpole's Excise Bill which was to have 
freed the country by changing the system of taxa 
tion from direct to indirect methods. It was a good 
measure and a just one. Every part of Walpole's 
scheme has been since carried into effect. But then 
there was a general cry raised against it. The 
liberties of the people, it was said, were being 



12 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

attacked. Chesterfield, with the rest of the Patriots, 
and with the country behind them, fought hard, and 
the Bill was dropped (nth April, 1731). Two 
days afterward, going up the steps of St. James' 
Palace, he was stopped by a servant in the livery of 
the Duke of Grafton, who told him that his master 
must see him immediately. He drove off at once in 
the Duke's carriage, and found that he was to 
surrender the White Staff. He demanded an audi 
ence at Court, obtained it, and was snubbed. Of 
course he left it immediately. 

We could have wished perhaps that Lord Chester 
field's affection and character had prevented him 
from falling especially so soon after the affair at 
The Hague into so unpraiseworthy an undertak 
ing as a manage de convenance. Yet whether it was 
to spite his royal enemy, or because in financial 
difficulties he remembered the existence of the will 
of George I. or even from love ; at any rate in the 
following year he married, in lawful wedlock, 
Melusina de Schulenberg, whom, though merely the 
"niece" of the Duchess of Kendale, George the First 
had thought fit to create Lady Walsingham and the 
possessor by his will of 20,000. Scandal or truth 
has been very busy about the relationship of Lady 
Walsingham and her aunt. Posterity openly 
declares her to have been the daughter of that lady 



PREFATORY NOTE. 13 

by a royal sire. But good Dr. Maty, as though by 
the quantity of his information, wishing to override 
its quality, tells us that her father was none other 
than one "Frederick Achatz de Schulenburg, privy 
counsellor to the Duke of Brunswick-Lunenburg, 
Lord of Stehler, Bezendorff, Angern," etc. But we 
may well remember Lord Chesterfield's own words 
here: "It is a happy phrase that a lady has 
presented her husband with a son, for this does not 
admit anything of its parentage." Anyhow Lord 
Chesterfield lost the money, for George the Second, 
on being shown his father's will by the Archbishop 
of Canterbury, put it in his pocket and walked 
hastily out of the room. It never was seen again. 

But to have quarrelled with George II. had one 
recommendation. It made him a friend of the 
Prince of Wales. No sooner was Lord Chesterfield 
married than the Prince and Princess sent round 
their cards, and the rest of their Court, of course, 
followed them. It seems to have been Lord Chester 
field's fate to be opposed to the reigning power. His 
opposition now T , however, was quite spontaneous. 

We need not follow him through all the political 
entanglements of the time. Smollet said of him 
that he was the only man of genius employed under 
Walpole, and though history has hardly justified 
such praise, yet it certainly illustrates a truth. We 



14 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

may take his speech in 1737 against the Playhouse 
Bill as a sample of his oratory. I borrow from Lord 
Mahon : 

"[The speech] contains many eloquent predic 
tions, that, should the Bill be enacted, the ruin of 
liberty and the introduction of despotism would 
inevitably follow. Yet even Chesterfield owns that 
'he has observed of late a remarkable licentiousness 
in the stage. In one play very lately acted (Pas- 
quin* ) the author thought fit to represent the three 
great professions, religion, physic, and law as incon 
sistent with common sense; in another (King 
Charles the Firstf), a most tragical story was 
brought upon the stage a catastrophe too recent, 
too melancholy, and of too solemn a nature, to be 
heard of anywhere but from the pulpit. How these 
pieces came to pass unpunished, I do not know. . . 
The Bill, my Lords, may seem to be designed only 
against the stage; but to me it plainly appears to 
point somewhere else. It is an arrow that does but 
glance upon the stage: the mortal wound seems 
designed against the liberty of the press. By 
this Bill you prevent a play's being acted, but you 
do not prevent it being printed. Therefore if a 

* \."Pasquin. A Dramatic Satire on the Times, by Henry 
Fielding. Acted at the Haymarket, 1736; 1740." (Baker.) J 

t [" King Charles I. Hist. Tr. by W. Havard, 1737." 
(Ibid.).] 



PEEFATOEY NOTE. 15 

license should be refused for its being acted, we may 
depend upon it the play will be printed. It will be 
printed and published, my Lords, with the refusal, 
in capital letters, upon the title-page. People are 
always fond of what is forbidden. Libri prohibiti 
are, in all countries, diligently and generally sought 
after. It will be much easier to procure a refusal 
than it ever was to procure a good house or a good 
sale; therefore we may expect that plays will be 
wrote on purpose to have a refusal; this will cer 
tainly procure a good house or a good sale. Thus 
will satires be spread and dispersed through the 
whole nation; and thus every man in the kingdom 
may, and probably will, read for sixpence what a 
few only could have seen acted for half a crown. 
We shall then be told, What! will you allow an 
infamous libel to be printed and dispersed, which 
you will not allow to be acted ? If we agree to the 
Bill now before us, we must, perhaps, next session, 
agree to a Bill for preventing any plays being 
printed without a license. Then satires will be 
wrote by way of novels, secret histories, dialogues, 
or under some such title ; and thereupon we shall be 
told, What! will you allow an infamous libel to be 
printed and dispersed, only because it does not bear 
the title of a play? Thus, my Lords, from the 
precedent now before us, we shall be induced, nay, 



16 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

we can find no reason for refusing, to lay the press 
under a general license, and then we may bid adieu 
to the liberties of Great Britain.' "* Of course it is 
impossible from single passages, even perhaps from 
single speeches, to infer that he was ever a great 
orator, but Horace Walpole has declared one of his 
speeches the finest that he had ever listened to, and, 
as Lord Mahon justly observes, "Horace Walpole 
had heard his own father; had heard Pitt; had 
heard Pulteney; had heard Windham; had heard 
Carteret; yet he declares in 1743 that the finest 
speech he had ever listened to was one from Lord 
Chesterfield." 

He was, with the other "Patriots," in clamoring 
for war with Spain, pursuing Walpole with an oppo 
sition which has been characterized as "more fac 
tious and unprincipled than any that had ever 
disgraced English politics" (Green). In 1739, it 
will be remembered, Walpole bowed to the storm. 
The following extract from An Ode to a Number of 
Great Men, published in 1742, will show underneath 
its virulence who were expected to take the lead : 

"But first to Cfarteret] fain you'd sing, 
Indeed he's nearest to the king, 
Yet careless how to use him, 

* Chesterfield says he had been accustomed to read and 
translate the great masterpieces to improve and form his style. 
His indebtedness to Milton in his Areopagitica in the above 
passage is obvious. 



PREFATORY NOTE. 17 

Give him, I beg, no labor'd lays, 
He will but promise if you praise, 
And laugh if you abuse him. 

"Then (but there's a vast space betwixt) 
The new-made ECarl] of B[ath] comes next, 

Stiff in his popular pride : 
His step, his gait describe the man, 
They paint him better than I can, 

Wabbling from side to side. 

"Each hour a different face he wears, 
Now in a fury, now in tears, 

Now laughing, now in sorrow, 
Now he'll command, and now obey, 
Bellows for liberty to-day, 
And roars for power to-morrow. 

"At noon the Tories had him tight, 
With staunchest Whigs he supped at night, 

Each party thought to have won him: 
But he himself did so divide, 
Shuffled and cut from side to side, 
That now both parties shun him. 

"More changes, better times this isle 
Demands, oh ! Chesterfield, Argyll, 

To bleeding Britain bring 'em; 
Unite all hearts, appease each storm, 
'Tis yours such actions to perform, 

My pride shall be to sing 'em." 

Affairs in Holland again compelled him to seek 
that Court, and it is thence that he was summoned 
to Ireland in 1744. "Make Chenevix an Irish 
Bishop," he had written. "We cannot," was the 
reply, "but any other condition." "Then make 



18 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

me Lord-Lieutenant," he wrote back. They took 
him at his word, and Chenevix soon obtained his 
place. 

Chesterfield had always looked forward to the 
post with longing. "I would rather be called the 
Irish Lord-Lieutenant," he had said, "than go down 
to Posterity as the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland." It 
was, as has been truly observed, the most brilliant 
and useful part of his career. I shall be pardoned 
for quoting again from Mahon. "It was he who 
first, since the revolution, had made that office a 
post of active exertion. Only a few years before 
the Earl of Shrewsbury had given as a reason for 
accepting it, that it was a place where a man had 
business enough to hinder him from falling asleep, 
and not enough to keep him awake. Chesterfield, on 
the contrary, left nothing undone nor for others to 
do. ... [He] was the first to introduce in 
Dublin the principle of impartial justice. It is very 
easy, as was formerly the case, to choose the great 
Protestant families as managers ; to see only through 
their eyes, and to hear only through their ears; it 
is very easy, according to the modern fashion, to 
become the tool and the champion of Roman Cath 
olic agitators ; but to hold the balance even between 
both ; to protect the Establishment, yet never wound 
religious liberty; to repress the lawlessness, yet not 



PREFATORY NOTE. 19 

chill the affection of that turbulent but warm 
hearted people; to be the arbiter, not the slave of 
parties; this is the true object worthy that a states 
man should strive for, and fit only for the ablest to 
attain! 1 came determined/ writes Chesterfield 
many years afterward, 'to proscribe no set of per 
sons whatever; and determined to be governed by 
none. Had the Papists made any attempt to put 
themselves above the law, I should have taken good 
care to have quelled them again. It was said that 
my lenity to the Papists had wrought no alteration, 
either in their religion or political sentiments. I did 
not expect that it would; but surely there was no 
reason of cruelty toward them.' ... So able were 
the measures of Chesterfield; so clearly did he 
impress upon the public mind that his moderation 
was not weakness, nor his clemency cowardice, but 
that, to quote his own words, 'his hand should be 
as heavy as Cromwell's upon them if they once 
forced him to raise it!' So well did he know how to 
scare the timid, while conciliating the generous, that 
this alarming period [1745] passed over with a 
degree of tranquillity such as Ireland has not often 
displayed even in orderly and settled times. This 
just and wisewise because just administration 
has not failed to reward him with its meed of fame- 
his authority has, I find, been appealed to even by 



20 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

those who, as I conceive, depart most widely from 
his maxims; and his name, I am assured, lives in 
the honored remembrance of the Irish people, as 
perhaps, next to Ormond, the best and worthiest in 
their long Viceregal line." 

We know that it was a complete success, so far 
as it went. But he held the post only for four 
years. He had held the highest offices, he had 
attained his highest wishes ; yet his membership in 
the Cabinet had been made nominal rather than real, 
and his power was ever controlled by the hand of 
the King. Nowhere, in whatever direction he might 
care to turn his eyes along the political landscape, 
could he see anything but what was rotten and 
revolting. In 1748 he retired. 

We cannot call his political career an unsuccessful 
one. It was probably as brilliant as it was possible 
for a man of his parts to enjoy. He was a good 
talker and an incomparable ambassador. His action 
in Holland had permanent influence on the politics 
of Europe. But indeed, if he had been freed from 
the opposition of a profligate Court and all that it 
entailed ; if, as has been implied by some, he would 
have been a greater man had not the death of his 
father driven him into the House of Lords; if he 
would then have risen to be anything greater than a 
second-rate Minister: this we may doubt. Yet we 



PREFATORY NOTE. 21 

are not entitled to draw an estimate of his character 
before we have studied its other side. 

Chesterfield did not entirely give up attendance 
or even speaking at the House, but his energies 
henceforward were devoted to literary rather than 
political matters. One further act he performed 
before he left for good; he carried out three years 
later the reform of the English Calendar, an account 
of which he gives in one of his letters, and I cannot 
equal his words.* This was the last important 
public event in his life. Next year he was attacked 
with deafness, which incapacitated him of necessity 
from affairs. It does not seem that he was ever 
sorry to leave them. Ever and anon the old political 
fire breaks out, and we find him keeping an observ 
ant eye on the course of events. But he was thor 
oughly despondent of the prestige and ascendancy 
of England by the time of the outbreak of the Seven 
Years' War. "Nation!" he had cried, "we are no 
longer a nation." We find him sympathizing with 
Wilkes, and to the end on the side of Pitt. But 
about 1765 his letters begin to bear the mark of 
decrepitude, and his brains to be unable to cope with 
the situations that arose. 

"I see and hear these storms from shore, suave mari magno, 
&c. I enjoy my own security and tranquillity, together with 

* See Letter CCXV., also CCXII. 



22 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

better health than I have reason to expect at my age and with 
my constitution: however, I feel a gradual decay, though a 
gentle one ; and I think I shall not tumble, but slide gently to 
the bottom of the hill of life. When that will be I neither know 
nor care, for I am very weary." 

And in the following August, anticipating alike the 
autumn of his life and of the year, he writes : 

"I feel this beginning of the autumn, which .is already 
very cold; the leaves are withered, fall apace, and seem to 
intimate that I must follow them, which I shall do without 
reluctance, being extremely weary of this silly world." (Let 
ter CCCLV.) 

Yet even a year later we find him giving dinner 
parties to the Duke of Brunswick, and wishing that 
he had both the monarchs of Austria and Prussia, 
that they should, "together with some of their allies, 
take Lorraine and Alsace from France." (Letter 
CCCLXIV.) For a few more years he lingered on, 
gardening, reading, and writing, and then in 1773, 
almost alone, he parted with "this silly world." 

II. 

I have omitted from this sketch of Lord Chester 
field's political life any reference to the literary side 
of his character. I have, however, spoken of his 
friendship with Voltaire. Voltaire came to England 
in the same year that Chesterfield's father died, to 
obtain, among other things, a publisher for the 



PKEFATORY NOTE. 23 

Henriade. Chesterfield and Bolingbroke at once 
took him up and introduced him into high places.* 
Voltaire never forgot him nor the services which he 
had rendered; and one of the most charming lights 
thrown upon the end of Lord Chesterfield's career 
is in a letter from the old sage of Ferney to his 
friend of younger days, now grown old as himself. 
Chesterfield was always a great admirer of Vol 
taire's, though by no means a blind one : 

"I strongly doubt," he writes, "whether it is permissible for 
a man to write against the worship and belief of his country, 
even if he be fully persuaded of its error, on account of the 
terrible trouble and disorder it might cause; but I am sure it 
is in no wise allowable to attack the foundations of true moral 
ity, and to break unnecessary bonds which are already too 
weak to keep men in the path of duty." 

But differences upon points of morality and religion 
did not prevent his having an immense regard for 
Voltaire's genius. 

There is yet the other transaction in which Lord 
Chesterfield was engaged, and it will probably be as 
long remembered against him as the letters his 
ill-famed treatment of Dr. Johnson. It is too well 
known how Johnson came to his door, and how 

* It is just possible, though I have nowhere seen it affirmed, 
that Voltaire and Chesterfield may have met, still earlier, in 
Holland. For in 1713 they were both there. Their attainments 
there were all but parallel, Voltaire succumbing to a fatalpas- 
sion in 1713, which did not, to our knowledge, overtake Ches 
terfield till his second visit in 1729. 



24 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTERS. 

Chesterfield, who could never be impolite, received 
the ill-mannered Doctor. But either the Earl 
objected to having the old man annoying his guests 
at table, or else he was not sufficiently pressing with 
his money ; anyhow, the Doctor felt repelled, left off 
calling, and never sought another patron. Years 
afterward, when he brought out his Dictionary 
(1755), there was a letter prefixed to the first 
edition, entitled ''The Blast of Doom, proclaiming 
that patronage shall be no more." Boswell solicited 
the Doctor for many years to give him a copy, but 
he did not do so until 1781, and then gave it from 
memory : 

". . . Seven years, my lord, have passed since I waited in 
your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door ; during 
which time I have been pushing on my work under difficulties, 
of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it to the 
verge of publication without one act of assistance, one word of 
encouragement, or one smile of favor. Such treatment I did 
not expect ; for I never had a patron before 

"Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on 
a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached 
ground, encumbers him with help? The notice you have been 
pleased to take of my labors, had it been early, had been 
kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot 
enjoy it; till I am solitary and cannot impart it; till I am 
known and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity 
not to confess obligations, where no benefit has been received ; 
or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing 
that to a patron which providence has enabled me to do for 
myself. 

"Having carried on my work thus far, with so little obliga- 



PREFATORY NOTE. 25 

tion to any favorer of learning, I shall not be disappointed, 
though I should conclude it, if possible, with less ; for I have 
been long wakened from that dream of hope in which I once 
boasted myself with so much exaltation, my lord, your lord 
ship's most humble and most obedient servant, 

"SAMUEL JOHNSON." 

Such a transaction is but little to the praise of Lord 
Chesterfield, who would have posed as the Maecenas 
of the eighteenth century. But there the matter rests. 
It is another proof of what the Earl was not, but 
with the slightest bend of his body might have been. 
He lost the Dedication to one of the greatest 
achievements of the time. 

III. 

Let us turn to Lord Chesterfield's son. Sainte- 
Beuve says of him he was "one of those ordinary 
men of the world of whom it suffices to say there is 
nothing to be said." But there is so much melan 
choly interest attaching to his history that we may 
well try to discern some of the features of the youth. 
No portrait of Philip Stanhope, so far as I am 
aware, has ever been given to the public, though 
we know from his father's letters that one, if not 
more than one, was executed at Venice during his 
stay there, so that I am unable, as yet, to surmise 
anything from physical feature of form and angle. 
.We know that his father sent him to Westminster 



26 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

School, and that there he was slovenly and dirty. 
Of his intellectual qualities we hear nothing. His 
father's letter to the boy, then sixteen, is subtle : 

"Since you do not care to be an Assessor of the Imperial 
Chamber, and desire an establishment in England, what do 
you think of being Greek Professor at one of our Universities ? 
It is a very pretty sinecure, and requires very little knowledge 
(much less than, I hope, you have already) of that language. 
If you do not approve of this, I am at a loss to know what else 
to propose to you." 

The old earl, six months later, added as follows : 

"The end I propose by your education, and which (if you 
please) I shall certainly attain, is, to unite in you all the knowl 
edge of a scholar, with the manners of a courtier, and to join 
what is seldom joined in any of my countrymen, Books and the 
World. They are commonly twenty years old before they have 
spoken to anybody above their schoolmaster, and the Fellows 
of their College. If they happen to have learning, it is only 
Greek and Latin ; but not one word of Modern History or 
Modern Languages. Thus prepared, they go abroad, as they 
call it; but, in truth, they stay at home all that while; for, 
being very awkward, confoundedly ashamed, and not speaking 
the languages, they go into no foreign company, at least none 
good, but dine and sup with one another at the tavern. Such 
example, I am sure you will not imitate, but carefully avoid." 

Young Stanhope went abroad with a tutor, Mr. 
Harte, to the chief towns, first, of Germany, fol 
lowed everywhere by letters from his father, though, 
as his father says in one of them, "God knows 
whether to any purpose or not." He never escaped 
from the paternal care. Wherever ypu are "I have 



PREFATORY NOTE. 27 

Arguses with a hundred eyes," his father told him. 
The boy was affectionately fond of his father, 
though he did not inherit his father's epistolary 
taste. Yet we find him on corresponding terms with 
Lady Chesterfield. He was inclined to be stout, a 
fault which his father tells him to remedy by 
abstaining from Teutonic beer. He wore long hair. 
"I by no means agree to your cutting off your hair." 
(Stanhope had suggested this as a remedy for head 
aches.) "Your own hair is at your age such an 
ornament; and a wig, however well made, such a 
disguise that I will upon no account whatever have 
you cut off your hair." We hear that he was already 
within two inches of his father's height. Boswell 
met him at Dresden, and has left us the following 
picture of him : "Mr. Stanhope's character has 
been unjustly represented as being diametrically 
opposed to what Lord Chesterfield wished him to be. 
He has been called dull, gross, awkward, but I knew 
him at Dresden when he was envoy to that Court, 
and though he could not boast of the Graces, he was, 
in fact, a sensible, civil, well-behaved man." And 
what he was as envoy he seems to have been all his 
life. Lord Chesterfield sent him to Berlin first,* and 
Turin afterward, as there was to be found the next 

* He must just have escaped traveling from Leipzig to Ber 
lin with Lessing. Both took the journey in February, 1749. 



28 CHESTEBFIELD'S LETTEES. 

fittest training in Europe at that Court. Nothing 
could exceed his father's care in warning him 
against such dangers as usually attend Court life. 
Against evils of all kind he cautions and guards 
him. Yet there is this continual insistence on the 
Graces. "The Graces! The Graces!" he writes, 
"Remember the Graces ! I would have you sacrifice 
to the Graces." By no means must a man neglect 
the Graces if he would pursue his object, the object 
of getting on. 

After all this schooling he went to Paris, and 
seems to have made a tolerable debut. There must 
have been a strange measuring up of qualities when 
father and son met. At twenty-two Lord Chester 
field obtained for him a seat in the House, but he 
was never a brilliant speaker. He, like the younger 
Pitt, was a parliamentary experiment ; but it was not 
given to Stanhope to succeed. In 1757 he goes to 
Hamburg. Two years later his health broke down, 
and he came to England. But feeling better again, 
in 1763 he obtained a post at Ratisbon, whence he 
was once summoned to vote in the English Parlia 
ment, Next year he went to Dresden as envoy, but 
there his constitution was ruined, and he set off for 
Berlin, and afterward for France. In the spring 
of 1767 he returned to Dresden, fancying himself 
better, but in the following year the old symptoms 



PREFATORY NOTE. 29 

returned, and he died on the i7th of October, 1768, 
near Avignon. It was then only that his father 
discovered he was the father of two children by 
a secret marriage. And these, together with their 
mother, were thrown upon Lord Chesterfield for 
support. It is one of the examples of his charac 
teristic traits that he supported and loved all three. 
There is no more charming pendant to the whole 
series of letters than a short one of three paragraphs 
which he wrote to the two children of his illegiti 
mate son only two years before he left them forever. 

Here my biographical notice of the three genera 
tions ends. But the lives of father and son will ever 
remain full of interest and suggestion to those who 
would study human character. 

There are several portraits of the Earl of Chester 
field. The most striking, and at the same time 
probably the most faithful which we have, is that 
by Bartolozzi in the Maty Memoirs. It is clear, 
mobile, and benevolent. The features are very 
large, and the eyes of that cold meditative species 
which look as though they were the altar stone of 
that fire of wit and quaint humor which we know 
he possessed. It is a fine intellectual, if somewhat 
too receding, forehead, with protruding temples and 
clear-cut eyebrows; the nose prominent, and the 
mouth pronounced. There is a great diversity how- 



30 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEES. 

ever in the portraits, and he seems sometimes to 
have been unable to hide the traits of sensuality. 
Yet, on the whole, it is as inscrutable as his own 
scheming diplomatic soul could ever have wished 
for its earthly representative in clay. 

IV. 

If we ask ourselves what is the moral of the 
Letters, and what is their significance, we are met 
with a varied reply. We have here the outpourings 
of a man's soul in penetralibus. As such the book 
stands for its time unique. Chesterfield, when he 
wrote these letters, was not actuated by the criti 
cisms of Grub Street, nor indeed any criticisms. He 
never for a moment dreamt that his letters would be 
published, and they are therefore bereft of that 
stifling self-consciousness which is the bane of so 
many writers. It is this which makes so frequently 
a man's letters more living than his published works, 
at any rate more real. So far, of course, Lord Ches 
terfield shares this distinction with other writers. 
But his letters are noteworthy for more than this. 
They combine with it a complete system of educa 
tion, a system which was thought out without oppo 
sition and expressed without fear. In such a case, 
of course, we do not look for style; but so perfect 
and so equal was the man that we are even told that 



PREFATORY NOTE. 81 

these letters are not exceeded in style by anything 
in the language.* 

Manuals, of course, there have been many. In 
the age gone by there had been Walsingham's, there 
had been Burghley's Advice, there had been Sir 
Walter Raleigh's; but from the time that Cicero 
wrote his De Officiis for his own child down to 
these, we come upon but few of this sort. There 
had been Castiglione's Cortegiano, and in a few 
years Delia Casa's Galateo; there is Roger Ascham's 
Scholemaster. Chesterfield had found much to his 
taste and method in the Moral Reflections of La 
Rochefoucauld and the Characters of La Bruyere. 
In England had just appeared Locke's Essay on 
Education, and this he sends for his son 
to read.f In 1759 Lessing and Wieland were writ 
ing on the same subject; and in 1762 Rousseau 
published Emile. Everywhere education was, to use 
a common phrase, in the air. Chesterfield loved his 
son passionately and unremittingly. He had been 
much in France, and admired the French nation; 
and he determined that his son should combine the 



* For his fine sense of the quality of words witness : "An 
unharmonious and rugged period at this time shocks my ears, 
and I, like all the rest of the world, will willingly exchange 
and give up some degree of rough sense for a good degree 
of pleasing sound." 

t Characteristically, no mention is made of Shaftesbury nor 
of Hutcheson. 



32 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

good qualities of both nationalities the ideal statesr- 
man and the ideal polished man of society. He did 
not forget that on Philip Stanhope would ever 
remain the brand of the bar sinister; but we may 
well believe that this was only one more daring 
reason for the experiment which he chose to make. 
He was playing for high stakes, and he was not 
careless of the issue. "My only ambition," he 
writes in 1754, "remaining is to be the counsellor 
and minister of your rising ambition. Let me see 
my own youth revived in you; let me be your 
mentor, and I promise you, with your parts and 
knowledge you shall go far." (Letter CCLXXIV.) 
It is seldom that we have such a continuous series 
of original letters as these. From the first badinage 
to his son, then five years old, who was then in 
Holland, in which he explains what a republic is, 
and how clean is Holland in comparison with Lon 
don; from the times when he explains how Poetry 
is made, and who the Muses are, and sends his little 
son accounts of all the Greek and Roman legends; 
from the times when he writes, "Let us return to 
our Geography that we may amuse ourselves with 
maps;" and in the middle of a letter of affection, 
having mentioned Cicero, starts off "apropos of 
him," and gives his little son his whole history, and 
that of Demosthenes after him; to the times when 



PKEFATORY NOTE. 33 

the boy is able to retort on him for inconsistency in 
calling Ovidius Ovid, and not calling Tacitus Tacit; 
through all his explanations of what Irony is and 
is not; through his pedantic "by the ways;" his 
definitions (pace Professor Freeman) of Ancient 
and Modern History"; his sarcasms and his descrip 
tions : down to the time when his advice is about 
quadrille tables and ministers and kings, the series 
is absolutely unbroken and of unflagging interest. 

They are at the best, as he says himself, "what 
one man of the world writes to another." "I am 
not writing poetry," he says, "but useful reflec 
tions." "Surely it is of great use to a young man 
before he starts out for a country full of mazes, 
windings and turnings, to have at least a good map 
of it by some experienced traveller." And so the 
old man gives us his map of life as he had seen it. 
It is exactly the same estimate in result as Cicero 
gave in the De Oratore: "Men judge most things 
under the influence of either hate, or love, or desire, 
or anger, or grief, or joy, or hope, or fear, or error, 
or some other passion, than by truth, or precepts, or 
standard of right, or justice, or law." 

"The proper study of mankind is man," 

and if we disapprove of the morality of Cicero and 
his epoch no less than of Chesterfield's, we must yet 



34 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEKS. 

remember that in the one instance, as in the other, 
their precepts were the purveyors of very soundest 
advice. His standard is, as has been already pointed 
out, that of the eighteenth century. "Be wiser than 
other people if you can; but do not tell them so." 
"It is an active, cheerful, seducing good-breeding 
which must gain you the good-will and first senti 
ments of the men and affections of the women. You 
must carefully watch and attend to their passions, 
their tastes, their little humors and weaknesses, and 
oiler au devant." "Make love to the most imperti 
nent beauty that you meet with, and be gallant with 
all the rest." 

It would be a not uninteresting task to see how 
many of his moral sentiments would stand fire 
at the present day. We know all the facts of his 
life, and we have here his opinions on nearly every 
matter. His opinions are as concise as they are out 
spoken. "The best of us have had our bad sides, 
and it is as imprudent as it is ill-bred to exhibit 
them,"* he says. It is this absence of ceremony 
which makes him so living and real. Even in Dr. 
Johnson's time the merit as well as the demerit of 
this series of letters had been settled for the standard 
of that day. "Take out the immorality," said the 

* Cf. Sir Walter Raleigh's "Every Man's Folly ought to be 
bis greatest secret." (Instructions to his Son.) 



PREFATORY NOTE. $5 

worthy Doctor, "and it should be put into the hands 
of every young gentleman." 

The training to which he subjected his son was 
in many ways admirable. Rise regularly, however 
late o' nights; work all the morning; take exercise 
in the afternoon; and see good company in the 
evening. The impressing of this advice upon his 
son has left us in the possession of one of the most 
charming examples of Lord Chesterfield's most 
playful style. (Letter CLXI.) 

Lord Chesterfield was all for modern to the dis 
advantage of a classical education. Learn all the 
modern history and modern languages you can, and 
if at the same time you can throw in a little Latin 
and Greek, so much the better for you. Roman 
history study as much as you will, for of all ancient 
histories it is the most instructive, and furnishes 
most examples of virtue, wisdom, and courage. 
History is to be studied morally, he says, but not 
only so. 

When we turn to his judgment of the ancients 
we are considerably startled. He seems to have 
preferred Voltaire's Henriade to any epic. "Judge 
whether," he writes, "I can read all Homer through 
tout de suite. I admire his beauties ; but, to tell you 
the truth, when he slumbers I sleep. Virgil, I con 
fess, is all sense, and therefore I like him better than 



36 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

his model ; but he is often languid, especially in his 
five or six last books, during which I am obliged to 
take a good deal of snuff. . . ." 

If his views on Milton should be known, he adds, 
he would be abused by every tasteless pedant and 
every solid divine in England. His criticism of 
Dante it will be best for the reader to discover. 

The weightier questions and the weightiest he 
pushed altogether aside. "I don't speak of religion," 
he writes. "I am not in a position to do so the 
excellent Mr. Harte will do that." At any rate, 
Chesterfield knew his own ground. Incidentally we 
find his position cropping up. "The reason of every 
man is, or ought to be, his guide ; and I should have 
as much right to expect every man to be of my 
height and temperament as to wish that he should 
reason precisely as I do." It was the doctrine of 
the French school that he had adopted, with some 
thing of a quietism of his own. "Let them enjoy 
quietly their errors," he says somewhere, "both in 
taste and religion."* It would be interesting to 
compare in these matters the relative positions of 
Chesterfield and Bolingbroke. 

Of the movement headed by Wesley, as we have 
seen earlier in his career, Chesterfield seems to have 

* "A wise Atheist (if such a thing there is) would, for his 
own interest and character in the world, pretend to some re- 
Jigion," Letter CLXXX. 



PREFATORY NOTE. 37 

taken as little heed as the younger Pliny did of the 
first holders of Wesley's faith. 

It is a harder and more delicate question which 
we are met with in discussing Lord Chesterfield's 
position with regard to morality. Johnson's crit 
icism of the Letters, that "they taught the morals of 
a courtesan and manners of a .dancing master," even 
though epigrammatic, yet bears within it traces of 
the sting which the lexicologist felt about the matter 
of the Dedication. Of the Earl's opinions we have 
seen something in former extracts and in his own 
life. He speaks quite openly "I wish to speak as 
one man of pleasure does to another." "A polite 
arrangement," he says elsewhere, "becomes a gallant 
man." Anything disgraceful or impolite he will 
not stand. 

Yet as a human Picciola does Lord Chesterfield 
guard the soul of his son within its prison-house of 
life. He never speaks, however, to his son pulpit- 
ically. It is ever as a wise counsellor : and his tend 
ency is always the same. 

It is suggestive of much to turn aside from the 
petitesses of these instructions to the thoughts which 
were occupying the brain of the author of Emilius 
about the same time. From very much the same 
foundations and the same materials how different 
is the result! In the one we breathe the fresh air 



38 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

of the country, of the rustic home and the carpen 
ter's shop : in the other we are stifled by the per 
fumes of the court-room and suffocated by tight 
lacing. In the one we are never for a moment to 
wear a mask : in the other we are never for a 
moment to move without it. Yet, though the one is 
built up of social theories by an enthusiastic 
dreamer, and the other is a cold, practical experi 
ment by a man of the world, and "an imperfect man 
of action, whom politics had made a perfect moral 
ist," there is the same verdict of failure to be pro 
nounced upon them both. Voltaire said of Emilius 
that it was a stupid romance, but admitted that it 
contained fifty pages which he would have bound in 
morocco. Lord Chesterfield's was no romance, but 
its pages deserve perhaps as careful treatment. "It 
is a rich book," says Sainte-Beuve ; "one cannot read 
a page without finding some happy observation 
worthy of being mentioned." Yet, as a system of 
education, it is blasted with the foul air of the char 
nel-house. 

V. 

If we look at the result we must pronounce his 
experiment no less a failure. The odds were too 
heavy in the first instance, and a man of less energy 
and stability than Lord Chesterfield would not have 
dared to have played at such high stakes. He ought 



PEEFATORY NOTE. 39 

to have considered what an infliction he was casting 
upon his son, and respected the feelings of others ra 
ther than his own ambition. He has reaped the har 
vest which he had sown. When Philip Stanhope tried 
to obtain an appointment at the embassy in Brussels 
the Marquis de Botta made so much to do on the 
ground of his illegitimacy that his claim was disal 
lowed. When there was a chance of his receiving 
an appointment at Venice, the king objected on the 
same grounds. Not one word of displeasure is 
handed down to us in these familiar letters, but we 
know that both felt it deeply and never forgave. 
But even Philip Stanhope himself must have disap 
pointed his father. When his widow, with her two 
children, walked up the hall of Chesterfield House, 
where the Earl sat alone in solitary childless grand 
eur, it must have seemed a strange answer to the 
question which he had asked Time some thirty-eight 
years before. He may well have grown weary of 
sitting at the table at which he had staked his all 
and lost. 

Vivacious, sincere, plain, and liberal-minded, his 
memory may well pass down to posterity as that of 
a great man with mean aspirations. That ambition 
was not wanting in his composition is true, and it 
was this which encompassed his ruin. He reminds 
us of the melancholy structure of S. Petronio at 



40 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEES. 

Bologna, begun in emulation of the Florentine 
Duomo by the Bolognese. One sees the outline of 
the structure which was to have been raised, but for 
two centuries it has stood uncompleted, a monument 
to her greatness and her shame. 

Careless of the interests of those around him; 
careless and callous of what was demanded of man 
by men ; careless of speech so long as he could create 
a bon-mot or a well-balanced phrase, Lord Chester 
field's life is characteristic of his time. 

Chesterfield, if we may make one more compar 
ison, is like one of those great trees that we see upon 
the banks of a river, which, while drawing its nur 
ture half from its native soil and the stream by its 
side, and half from the sky above it, has had that 
very soil worn away by the current of the stream, so 
that the tree, by its own natural weight and under 
the force of adverse winds and circumstance, has 
bowed itself over toward the waves, losing its natu 
ral height and grandeur for ever. 

Dead to the higher interests of humanity ; dead to 
the deeper influences which keep us sober and 
thoughtful and earnest; dead, again, to any ideal 
save such as might serve his own designs: such 
was the man who deemed himself called upon, or 
fitted, to perform the sacred office of Education to 
his darling child. 



CRITICAL ESSAY. 

BY C. A. SAINTE-BEUVE.* 



EACH epoch has produced its treatise intended for 
the formation of the polite man, the man of the 
world, the courtier, when men only lived for courts, 
and the accomplished gentleman. In these various 
treatises on knowledge of life and politeness, if 
opened after a lapse of ages, we at once see portions 
which are as antiquated as the cut and fashion of 
our forefathers' coats; the model has evidently 
changed. But looking into it carefully as a whole, 
if the book has been written by a sensible man with 
a true knowledge of mankind, we shall find profit in 
studying these models which have been placed before 
preceding generations. The letters that Lord Ches 
terfield wrote to his son, and which contain a whole 
school of savoir vivre and worldly science, are inter 
esting in this particular, that there has been no idea 
of forming a modd for imitation, but they are 
simply intended to bring up a pupil in the closest 
intimacy. They are confidential letters, which, sud- 

* In this Essay, by the late M. Sainte-Beuve, nothing has 
been altered, although, in one or two places, even his critical 
acuteness seems to have missed its point. 

41 



42 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

denly produced in the light of day, have betrayed 
all the secrets and ingenious artifices of paternal 
solicitude. If, in reading them nowadays, we are 
struck with the excessive importance attached to 
accidental and promiscuous circumstances, with pure 
details of costume, we are not less struck with the 
durable part, with that which belongs to human 
observation in all ages; and this last part is much 
more considerable than at a superficial glance would 
be imagined. In applying himself to the formation 
of his son as a polite man in society, Lord Chester 
field has not given us a treatise on duty, as Cicero 
has ; but he has left letters which, by their mixture 
of justness and lightness, by certain lightsome airs 
which insensibly mingle with the serious graces, 
preserve the medium between the Memoires of the 
Chevalier de Grammont and Telemaque. 

Before going into detail, it will be necessary to 
know a little about Lord Chesterfield, one of the 
most brilliant English wits of his time, and one most 
closely allied to France. Philip Dormer Stanhope, 
Earl of Chesterfield, was born in London on the 22d 
of September, 1694, the same year as Voltaire. The 
descendant of an illustrious race, he knew the value 
of birth, and wished to sustain its honor ; neverthe 
less, it was difficult for him not to laugh at genea 
logical pretensions when carried too far. To keep 



CRITICAL ESSAY. 43 

himself from this folly, he had placed amongst the 
portraits of his ancestors two old figures of a man 
and a woman : beneath one was written, "Adam de 
Stanhope"; and beneath the other "Eve de Stan 
hope." Thus, while upholding the honor of race, 
he put his veto upon chimerical vanities arising 
from it 

His father paid no attention whatever to his edu 
cation; he was placed under the care of his grand 
mother, Lady Halifax. From a very early age he 
manifested a desire to excel in everything, a desire 
which later he did his utmost to excite in the breast 
of his son, and which for good or ill is the principle 
of all that is great. It appears that, in his early 
youth, he was without guidance, he was deceived 
more than once in the objects of his emulation, and 
followed some ridiculous chimera. He confesses 
that at one period of inexperience he gave himself 
up to wine, and other excesses, for which he was 
not at all inclined by nature, but it flattered his van 
ity to hear himself cited as a man of pleasure. In 
this way he plunged into play (which he considered 
a necessary ingredient in the composition of a 
young man of fashion), at first without passion, 
but afterwards without being able to withdraw him 
self from it, and by that means compromised his 
fortune for years. "Take warning by my conduct/' 



'44 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

said he to his son, "choose your own pleasures, and 
do not let others choose them for you." 

The desire to excel and to distinguish himself did 
not always lead him astray, and he often applied it 
rightly; his first studies were the best. Placed at 
the University of Cambridge, he studied all that was 
there taught, civil law and philosophy ; he attended 
the mathematical classes of Saunderson, the blind 
professor, he read Greek fluently, and sent accounts 
of his progress in French to his old tutor, M. 
Jouneau, a French clergyman and refugee. Lord 
Chesterfield had, when a child, learnt our tongue 
from a Norman nurse who attended him. When 
he visited Paris the last time, in 1744, M. de Fon- 
tenelle having remarked a slight Norman accent in 
his pronunciation, spoke of it to him, and asked 
him if he had not first been taught French by a per 
son from Normandy, which turned out to be the case. 

After two years of university life, he made his 
Continental tour, according to the custom of young 
Englishmen. He visited Holland, Italy, and France. 
He wrote from Paris to M. Jouneau on the 7th of 
December, 1714, as follows: 

"I shall not tell you what I think of the French, 
because I am being often taken for a Frenchman, 
and more than one of them has paid me the highest 
possible compliment, by saying: 'Monsieur, you are 



CRITICAL ESSAY. 45 

quite one of ourselves.' I shall only tell you that I 
am impudent; that I talk a great deal very loudly 
and with an air of authority; that I sing; that I 
dance in my walk ; and, finally, that I spend immense 
sums in powder, feathers, white gloves, etc." 

In this extract one recognizes the mocking, satir 
ical, and slightly insolent wit, who makes his mark 
for the first time at the expense of the French; he 
will do justice later to our serious qualities. In his 
letters to his son, he has pictured himself the first 
day he made his entree into good society, still cov 
ered with the rust of Cambridge, shamefaced, 
embarrassed, silent ; and, finally, forcing his courage 
with both hands to say to a beautiful woman near 
him: "Madame, don't you find it very warm 
to-day?" But Lord Chesterfield told his son that 
to encourage him, and to show what it is necessary 
to pass through. He makes himself an example to 
embolden him, and to draw the boy more readily to 
him. I shall be careful not to take his word for this 
anecdote. If he was for a moment embarrassed in 
the world, the moment was assuredly very short, nor 
was he much concerned with it. 

Immediately on the death of Queen Anne, Ches 
terfield hailed the accession of the house of Han- 
ovsr., of which he became an avowed champion. He 
had at first a seat in the House of Commons, and 



46 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTEKS. 

made his debut there with fair credit. But a circum 
stance, in appearance frivolous, kept him, it is said, 
in check, and in some measure paralyzed his elo 
quence. One of the members of the House, who 
was distinguished by no talent of a superior order, 
had that of imitating and counterfeiting to perfec 
tion the orators to whom he replied. Chesterfield 
was afraid of ridicule ; it was one of his weaknesses, 
and he kept silence more than he otherwise would 
have done for fear of giving occasion for the exer 
cise of his colleague and opponent's talent. He 
inherited a large property on the death of his father, 
and was raised to the Upper House, which was, per 
haps, a better setting for the grace, finish, and 
urbanity of his eloquence. He found no comparison 
between the two scenes with regard to the import 
ance of the debates and the political influence to be 
acquired. 

"It is surprising," he said later of Pitt, at the time 
when that great orator consented to enter the Upper 
House as Lord Chatham, "it is surprising that a 
man in the plenitude of his power, at the very 
moment when his ambition has obtained the most 
complete triumph, should leave the House which 
procured him that power, and which alone could 
ensure its maintenance, to retire into that Hospital 
for Incurables, the House of Lords," 



CRITICAL ESSAY. 47 

It is not my intention here to estimate the political 
career of Lord Chesterfield. Nevertheless, if I 
hazarded a judgment upon it as a whole, I should 
say that his ambition was never wholly satisfied, 
and that the brilliant distinctions with which his 
public life was filled, covered, at bottom, many lost 
desires and the decay of many hopes. Twice, in the 
two decisive circumstances of his political life, he 
failed. Young, and in the first heat of ambition, 
he took an early opportunity of staking his odds on 
the side of the heir presumptive to the throne, who 
became George the Second. He was one of those 
who, at the accession of that prince, counted most 
surely upon his favor, and upon enjoying a share of 
power. But this clever man, wishing to turn him 
self to the rising sun, knew not how to accomplish 
it with perfect justice; he had paid court to the 
prince's mistress, believing in her destined influence, 
and he had neglected the legitimate wife, the future 
queen, who alone had the real power. Queen Caro 
line never pardoned him, and this was the first 
check in the political fortune of Lord Chesterfield, 
then thirty-three years old, and in the full flush of 
hope. He was in too great a hurry and took the 
wrong road, Robert Walpole, less active, and with 
less apparent skill, took his measures and made his 
calculations better. 



48 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS, 

Thrown with eclat into the opposition, especially 
from 1732, the time when he had to cease his court 
duties, Lord Chesterfield worked with all his might 
for ten years for the downfall of Walpole, which did 
not take place until 1742. But even then he inher 
ited none of his power, and he remained out of the 
new ministries. When two years afterward, in 
1744, he became one of the administration, first as 
ambassador to The Hague and Viceroy of Ireland, 
then as Secretary of State and member of the Cab 
inet (1746-1748), the honor was more nominal 
than real. In a word, Lord Chesterfield, at all 
times a noted politician in his own country, whether 
as one of the chiefs of the opposition, or as a clever 
diplomatist, was never a powerful, or even a very 
influential, minister. 

In politics he certainly possessed that far-sighted 
ness and those glimpses into the future which belong 
to very wide intelligence, but he possessed those 
qualities to a much greater degree than the patient 
perseverance and constant practical firmness that are 
so necessary to the members of a government. It 
may truly be said of him, as of Rochefoucauld, that 
politics served to make an accomplished moralist of 
the imperfect man of action. 

In 1744, when he was only fifty years of age, his 
political ambition, seemed, in part, to have died out, 



CRITICAL ESSAY. 49 

and the indifferent state of his health led him to 
choose a private life. And then the object of his 
secret ideal and his real ambition we know now. 
Before his marriage he had, about the year 1732, 
by a French lady (Madame de Bouchet) whom he 
met in Holland, a natural son to whom he was ten 
derly attached. He wrote to this son, in all sincer 
ity: "From the first day of your life, the dearest 
object of mine has been to make you as perfect as 
the weakness of human nature will allow." Toward 
the education of this son all his wishes, all his affec 
tionate and worldly predilections tended. And 
whether Viceroy of Ireland or Secretary of State 
in London, he found time to write long letters full 
of minute details to him, to instruct him in small 
matters and to perfect him in mind and manner. 

The Chesterfield, then, that we love especially to 
study is the man of wit and experience, who knew 
all the affairs and passed through all phases of 
political and public life only to find out its smallest 
resources, and to tell us the last mot; he who from 
his youth was the friend of Pope and Bolingbroke, 
the introducer into England of Montesquieu and 
Voltaire, the correspondent of Fontenelle and 
Madame de Teucin, he whom the Academy of 
Inscriptions placed among its members, who united 
the wit of the two nations, and who, in more than 



50 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 

one intellectual essay, but particularly in his letters 
to his son, shows himself to us as a moralist as 
amiable as he is consummate, and one of the masters 
of life. It is the Rochefoucauld of England of 
whom we speak. Montesquieu, after the publication 
of U Esprit des Lois, wrote to the Abbe de 
Guasco, who was then in England : "Tell my Lord 
Chesterfield that nothing is so flattering to me as 
his approbation; but that, though he is reading my 
work for the third time, he will only be in a better 
position to point out to me what wants correcting 
and rectifying in it ; nothing could be more instruc 
tive to me than his observations and his critique." 
It was Chesterfield who, speaking to Montesquieu 
one day of the readiness of the French for revolu 
tions, and their impatience at slow reforms, spoke 
this sentence, which is a resume of our whole his 
tory : "You French know how to make barricades, 
but you never raise barriers." 

Lord Chesterfield certainly appreciated Voltaire; 
he remarked, a propos of the Siecle de Louis 
XIV.: "Lord Bolingbroke had taught me how to 
read history; Voltaire teaches me how it should be 
written." But, at the same time, with that practical 
sense which rarely abandons men of wit on the other 
side of the Straits, he felt the imprudences of Vol 
taire, and disapproved of them. When he was old, 



CRITICAL ESSAY. 51 

and living in retirement, he wrote to a French lady 
on the subject thus : 

"Your good authors are my principal resource: 
Voltaire especially charms me, with the exception of 
his impiety, with which he cannot help seasoning all 
that he writes, and which he would do better care 
fully to suppress, for one ought not to disturb estab 
lished order. Let every one think as he will, or 
rather as he can, but let him not communicate his 
ideas if they are of a nature to trouble the peace of 
society." 

What he said then, in 1768, Chesterfield had 
already said more than twenty years previously, 
writing to the younger Crebillon, a singular corre 
spondent and a singular confidant in point of moral 
ity. Voltaire was under consideration, on account 
of his tragedy of Mahomet, and the daring ideas 
it contains : 

"What I do not pardon him for, and that which 
is not deserving of pardon in him," wrote Chester 
field to Crebillon, "is his desire to propagate a doc 
trine as pernicious to domestic society as contrary 
to the common religion of all countries. I strongly 
doubt whether it is permissible for a man to write 
against the worship and belief of his country, even 
if he be fully persuaded of its error, on account of 
the trouble and disorder it might cause; but I am 



52 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEES. 

sure that it is in no wise allowable to attack the 
foundations of true morality, and to break necessary 
bonds which are already too weak to keep men in 
the path of duty." 

Chesterfield, in speaking thus, was not mistaken 
as to the great inconsistency of Voltaire. His incon 
sistency, in a few words, was this : Voltaire, who 
looked upon men as fools or children, and who could 
never laugh at them enough, at the same time put 
loaded firearms into their hands, without troubling 
himself as to the use they would put them to. 

Lord Chesterfield himself, in the eyes of the 
Puritans of his country, has been accused, I should 
state here, of a breach of morality in the letters 
addressed to his son. The strict Johnson, who was 
not impartial on the subject, and who thought he 
had cause to complain against Chesterfield, said, 
when the letters were published, that ''they taught 
the morals of a courtesan, and the manners of a 
dancing-master." 

Such a judgment is supremely unjust, and if Ches 
terfield, in particular instances, insists upon graces 
of manner at any price, it is because he has already 
provided for the more solid parts of education, and 
because his pupil is not in the least danger of sinning 
on the side which makes man respectable, but rather 
on that which renders him agreeable. Although 



CRITICAL ESSAY. 53 

more than one passage in these letters may seem 
very strange, coming from a father to a son, the 
whole is animated with a true spirit of tenderness 
and wisdom. If Horace had had a son, I imagine 
he would not have written to him very differently. 

The letters begin with the A B C of education 
and instruction. Chesterfield teaches his son in 
French the rudiments of mythology and history. I 
do not regret the publication of these first letters. 
He lets slip some very excellent advice in those early 
pages. The little Stanhope is no more than eight 
years old when his father suits a little rhetoric to 
his juvenile understanding, and tries to show him 
how to use good language, and to express himself 
well. He especially recommends to him attention in 
all that he does, and he gives the word its full value. 
"It is attention alone," he says, "which fixes objects 
in the memory. There is no surer mark of a mean 
and meagre intellect in the world than inattention. 
All that is worth the trouble of doing at all deserves 
to be done well, and nothing can be well done with 
out attention." This precept he incessantly repeats, 
and varies the application of it as his pupil grows, 
and is in a condition to comprehend it to its fullest 
extent. Whether pleasure or study, everything one 
does must be done well, done entirely and at its 
proper time, without allowing any distraction to 



54 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

intervene. "When you read Horace pay attention 
to the accuracy of nis thoughts, to the elegance of 
MS diction, and to the beauty of his poetry, and do 
ot think of the 'De Homine et Give' of Puffendorf ; 
and when you .read Puffendorf do not think of 
Madame de St. Germain; nor of Puffendorf when 
you speak of Madame de St. Germain." But this 
strong and easy subjugation of the order of thought 
to the will only belongs to great or very good intel 
lects. M. Royer-Collard used to say that "what 
was most wanting in our day was respect in the 
moral disposition, and attention in the intellectual." 
Lord Chesterfield, in a less grave manner, might 
have said the same thing. He was not long in find 
ing out what was wanting in this child whom he 
wished to bring up ; whose bringing up was, indeed, 
the end and aim of hi life. "On sounding your 
character to its very depths," he said to him, "I 
have not, thank God, discovered any vice of heart 
or weakness of head so far; but I have discovered 
idleness, inattention, and indifference, defects which 
are only pardonable in the aged, who, in the decline 
of life, when health and spirits give way, have a 
sort of right to that kind of tranquillity. But a 
young man ought to be ambitious to shine and 
excel." And it is precisely this sacred fire, this light 
ning, that makes the Achilles, the Alexanders, and 



CEITICAL ESSAY. 55 

the Caesars to be the first in every undertaking, this 
motto of noble hearts and of eminent men of all 
kinds, that nature had primarily neglected to place 
in the honest but thoroughly mediocre soul of the 
younger Stanhope : "You appear to want," said his 
father, "that vivida vis animi which excites the 
majority of young men to please, to strive, and to 
outdo others." "When I was your age," he again 
says, ' I should have been ashamed for another to 
know his lesson better, or to have been before me 
in a game, and I should have had no rest till I had 
regained the advantage." All this little course of 
education by letters offers a sort of continuous dra 
matic interest; we follow the efforts of a fine dis 
tinguished, energetic nature as Lord Chesterfield's 
was, engaged in a contest with a disposition honest 
but indolent, with an easy and dilatory temperament, 
from which it would, at any expense, form a mas 
terpiece accomplished, amiable and original, and 
with which it only succeeded in making a sort of 
estimable copy. What sustains and almost touches 
the reader in this strife, where so much art is used, 
and where the inevitable counsel is the same beneath 
all metamorphoses, is the true fatherly affection 
which animates and inspires the delicate and excel 
lent master, as patient as he is full of vigor, lavish 
in resources and skill, never discouraged, untiring 



56 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

in sowing elegances and graces on this infantile soil. 
Not that this son, the object of so much culture and 
zeal, was in any way unworthy of his father. It 
has been pretended that there could be no one duller 
or more sullen than he was, and Johnson is quoted 
in support of the statement. There are caricatures 
which surpass the truth. It appears from the best 
authorities, that Mr. Stanhope, without being a 
model of grace, had the air of a man who had been 
well brought up, and was polite and agreeable. But 
do you not think that that is the most grievous part 
of all? It would have been better worth while, 
almost, to have totally failed, and to have only suc 
ceeded in making an original in the inverse sense, 
rather than with so much care and expense to have 
produced nothing more than an ordinary and insig 
nificant man of the world, one of those about whom 
it suffices to say, there is nothing to be said of them ; 
he had cause to be truly grieved and pity himself for 
his work if he were not a father. 

Lord Chesterfield had early thought of France to 
polish his son, and to give him that courtesy which 
cannot be acquired late in life. In private letters 
written to a lady at Paris, whom I believe to be 
Madame de Monconseil,* we see that he had 

* This is no longer a conjecture, but a certainty, after what 
I read in the edition of Lord Chesterfield's Letters, published 
in London by Lord Mahon in 1847 (4 vols.). See vol. iii., page 



CKITICAL ESSAY. S7 

thought of sending him to France from his child 
hood. 

"I have a boy," he wrote to this friend, "who is 
now thirteen years old; I freely confess to you that 
he is not legitimate; but his mother was well born 
and was kinder to me than I deserved. As to the 
boy, perhaps it- is partiality, but I think him amiable; 
he has a pretty face; he has much sprightliness, and 
I think intelligence, for his age. He speaks French 
perfectly ; he knows a good deal of Latin and Greek, 
and he has ancient and modern history at his fingers' 
ends. He is at school at present, but as they never 
dream of forming the manners of young people, and 
they are almost all foolish, awkward, and unpol 
ished, in short such as you see them when they come 
to Paris at the age of twenty or twenty-one, I do 
not wish my boy to remain here to acquire such bad 
habits; for this reason^ when he is fourteen I think 
of sending him to Paris. As I love the child dearly, 
and have set myself to make something good of him, 
as I believe he has the stuff in him, my idea is to 
unite in him what has never been found in one 
person before I mean the best qualities of the two 
nations." 

And he enters into the details of his plan, and the 

159. I was not acquainted with this edition when I wrote my 
article. C. DE S. B. 



58 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

means he thinks of using: a learned Englishman 
every morning, a French teacher after dinner, but 
above all the help of the fashionable world and good 
society. The war which broke out between France 
and England postponed this plan, and the young 
man did not make his debut in Paris until 1751, 
when he was nineteen years old, and had finished his 
tour through Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. 

Everything has been arranged by the most atten 
tive of fathers for his success and well-being upon 
this novel scene. The young man is placed at the 
Academy with M. de la Gueriniere ; the morning he 
devotes to study, and the rest of the time is to be 
consecrated to the world. "Pleasure is now the last 
branch of your education," this indulgent father 
writes; "it will soften and polish your manners; it 
will incite you to seek and finally to acquire graces." 
Upon this last point he is exacting, and shows no 
quarter. Graces, he returns continually to them, for 
without them all effort is vain. "If they are not 
natural to you, cultivate them," he cries. He indeed 
speaks confidently ; as if to cultivate graces, it is not 
necessary to have them already ! 

Three ladies, friends of his father, are especially 
charged to watch over and guide the young man at 
his debut; they are his governantes : Madame de 
Monconseil, Lady Hervey, and Madame de Bocage. 



CRITICAL ESSAY. 59 

But these introducers appear essential for the first 
time only; the young man must afterward depend 
upon himself, and choose some charming and more 
familiar guide. Upon this delicate subject of 
women, Lord Chesterfield breaks the ice: "I shall 
not talk to you on this subject like a theologian, or 
a moralist, or a father," he says; "I set aside my 
age, and only take yours into consideration. I wish 
to speak to you as one man of pleasure would to 
another if he has taste and spirit." And he expresses 
himself in consequence, stimulating the young man 
as much as possible toward polite arrangements and 
delicate pleasures, to draw him from common and 
coarse habits. His principle is that "a polite 
arrangement becomes a gallant man." All his 
morality on this point is summed up in a line of 
Voltaire : 

"II n'est jamais de mal en bonne compagnie." 

It is at these sentences more especially that the 
modesty of the grave Johnson is put to the blush; 
ours is content to smile at them. 

The serious and the frivolous are perpetually 
mingling in these letters. Marcel, the dancing- 
master, is very often recommended, Montesquieu no 
less. The Abbe de Guasco, a sort of toady to 
Montesquieu, is a useful personage for introduc- 



60 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

tions. "Between you and me," writes Chesterfield, 
"he has more knowledge than genius; but a clever 
man knows how to make use of everything, and 
every man is good for something. As to the Presi 
dent of Montesquieu, he is in all respects a precious 
acquaintance : He has genius, with the most exten 
sive reading in the world. Drink of his fountain 
as much as possible." 

Of authors, those whom Chesterfield particularly 
recommends at this time, and those whose names 
occur most frequently in his counsels, are La Roche 
foucauld and La Bruyere. "If you read some of La 
Rochefoucauld's maxims in the morning, consider 
them, examine them well, and compare them with 
the originals you meet in the evening. Read La 
Bruyere in the morning, and see in the evening if 
his portraits are correct." But these guides,- excel 
lent as they are, have no other use by themselves 
than that of a map. Without personal observation 
and experience, they would be useless, and would 
even be conducive to error, as a map might be if 
one thought to get from it a complete knowledge of 
towns and provinces. Better read one man than 
ten books. "The world , is a country that no one 
has ever known by means of descriptions; each of 
us must traverse it in person to be thoroughly 
initiated into its ways." 



CEITICAL ESSAY. 61 

Here are some precepts or remarks which are 
worthy of those masters of human morality : 

"The most essential of all knowledge, I mean the 
knowledge of the world, is never acquired without 
great attention, and I know a great many aged per 
sons who, after having had an extensive acquain 
tance, are still mere children in the knowledge of 
the world." 

"Human nature is the same all over the world; 
but its operations are so varied by education and 
custom that we ought to see it in all its aspects to 
get an intimate knowledge of it." 

"Almost all men are born with every passion to 
some extent, but there is hardly a man who has not 
a dominant passion to which the others are subor 
dinate. Discover this governing passion in every 
individual ; search into the recesses of his heart, and 
observe the different effects of the same passion in 
different people. And when you have found the 
master passion of a man, remember never to trust 
to him where that passion is concerned." 

"If you wish particularly to gain the good graces 
and affection of certain people, men or women, try 
to discover their most striking merit, if they have 
one, and their dominant weakness, for every one has 
his own, then do justice to the one, and a little more 
than justice to the other." 



62 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEKS. 

"Women, in general, have only one object, which 
is their beauty, upon which subject hardly any flat 
tery can be too gross to please them." 

"The flattery which is most pleasing to really 
beautiful or decidedly ugly women, is that which is 
addressed to their intellect." 

On the subject of women, again, if he seems dis 
dainful now and then, he makes reparation else 
where; and, above all, whatever he thinks of them, 
he never allows his son to slander them too much. 
"You appear to think that from the days of Eve to 
the present time they have done much harm: as 
regards that lady I agree with you; but from her 
time history teaches you that men have done more 
harm in the world than women ; and to speak truly, 
I would warn you not to trust either sex more than 
is absolutely necessary. But what I particularly 
advise you is this: never to attack whole bodies, 
whatever they may be." 

"Individuals occasionally forgive, but bodies and 
societies never do." 

In general, Chesterfield counsels his son to be 
circumspect and to preserve a sort of prudent neu 
trality, even in the case of the knaves and fools 
with which the world abounds. "After their friend 
ship there is nothing more dangerous than to have 
them for enemies." It is not the morality of Cato 



CKITICAL ESSAY. 63 

nor of Zeno, but that of Alcibiades, of Aristippus, 
or Atticus. 

Upon religion he shall speak, in reply to some 
trenchant opinion that his son had expressed : "The 
reason of every man is and ought to be his guide; 
and I shall have as much right to expect every man 
to be of my height and temperament, as to wish that 
he should reason precisely as I do." 

In everything he is of the opinion that the good 
and the best should be known and loved, but that 
it is not necessary to make one's self a champion 
for or against everything. One must know even in 
literature how to tolerate the weaknesses of others : 
"Let them enjoy quietly their errors both in taste 
and religion." Oh! how far from such wisdom is 
the bitter trade of criticism, as we do it ! 

He does not, however, advise lying; he is precise 
in this particular. His precept always runs thus: 
do not tell all, but never tell a lie. "I have always 
observed," he frequently repeats, "that the greatest 
fools are the greatest liars. For my part, I judge of 
the truth of a man by the extent of his intellect." 

We see how really he mixes the useful and the 
agreeable. He is perpetually demanding from the 
intellect something resolute and subtle, sweetness 
in the manner, energy at bottom. 

Lord Chesterfield thoroughly appreciated the seri- 



64: CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

ous state of France and the dread events that the 
eighteenth century brought to light. According to 
him, Duclos, in his Reflections, is right when he 
says that "a germ of reason is beginning to appear 
in France" "What I can confidently predict," adds 
Chesterfield, "is that before the end of this century 
the trades of king and priest will have lost half their 
power." 

Our revolution has been clearly predicted by him 
since 1750. 

He warned his son from the beginning against 
the idea that the French are entirely frivolous. 
"The cold inhabitants of the north look upon the 
French as a frivolous people who sing and whistle 
and dance perpetually; this is very far from being 
the truth, though the army of fops seems to justify 
it. But these fops., ripened by age and experience, 
often turn into very able men." The ideal, accord 
ing to him, would be to unite the merits of the two 
nations; but in this mixture he still seems to lean 
toward France: "I have said many times, and I 
really think, that a Frenchman who joins to a good 
foundation of virtue, learning, and good sense, the 
manners and politeness of his country, has attained 
the perfection of human nature." He unites suffi 
ciently well in himself the advantages of the two 
nations, with one characteristic which belongs 



CRITICAL ESSAY. 65 

exclusively to his race there is imagination even 
in his wit. Hamilton himself has this distinctive 
characteristic, and introduces it into French wit. 
Bacon, the great moralist, is almost a poet by 
expression. One cannot say so much of Lord Ches 
terfield ; nevertheless, he has more imagination in his 
sallies and in the expression of his wit than one 
meets with in Saint Evremond and our acute moral 
ists in general. He resembles his friend Mon- , 
tesquieu in this respect. 

If in the letters to his son we can, without being 
severe, lay hold of some cases of slightly damaged 
morality, we should have to point out, by way of 
compensation, some very serious and really admir 
able passages, where he speaks of the Cardinal de 
Retz, of Mazarin, of Bolingbroke, of Marlborougfc, 
and of many others. It is a rich book. One cannot 
read a page without finding some happy observation 
worthy of being remembered. 

Lord Chesterfield intended this beloved son for a 
diplomatic life; he at first found some difficulties in 
the way on account of his illegitimacy. To cut 
short these objections, he sent his son to Parliament; 
it was the surest method of conquering the scruples 
of the court. Mr. Stanhope, in his maiden speech, 
hesitated a moment, and was obliged to have re- * 
course to notes. He did not make a second attempt 



66 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 

at speaking in public. It appears that he succeeded 
better in diplomacy, in those second-rate places 
where solid merit is sufficient. He filled the post of 
ambassador extraordinary to the court of Dresden. 
But his health, always delicate, failed before he was 
old, and his father had the misfortune to see him die 
before him when he was scarcely thirty-six years old 
(1768). Lord Chesterfield at that time lived en 
tirely retired from the world, on account of his in 
firmities, the most painful of which was complete 
deafness. Montesquieu, whose sight failed, said to 
him once, "I know how to be blind." But he was 
not able to say as much ; he did not know how to be 
deaf. He wrote of it to his friends, even to those in 
France,' thus: "The exchange of letters," he re 
marked, "is the conversation of deaf people, and the 
only link which connects them with society." He 
found his latest consolations in his pretty country- 
house at Blackheath, which he had called by the 
French name of Babiole. He employed his time 
there in gardening and cultivating his melons and 
pineapples; he amused himself by vegetating in 
company with them. 

"I have vegetated here all this year," he wrote to 
a French friend (September, 1753), "without pleas 
ures and without troubles ; my age and deafness pre 
vented the first; my philosophy, or rather my tern- 



CEITICAL ESSAY. 67 

perament (for one often confounds them), guar 
anteed me against the last. I always get as much 
as I can of the quiet pleasures of gardening, walk 
ing, and reading, and in the meantime / await death 
without desiring or fearing it" 

He never undertook long works, not feeling him 
self sufficiently strong, but he sometimes sent agree 
able essays to a periodical publication, The World. 
These essays are quite worthy of his reputation for 
skill and urbanity. Nevertheless, nothing ap 
proaches the work which was no work to him 
of those letters, which he never imagined any one 
would read, and which are yet the foundation of his 
literary success. 

His old age, which was an early one, lasted a long 
time. His wit gave a hundred turns to this sad 
theme. Speaking of himself and one of his friends, 
Lord Tyrawley, equally old and infirm : "Tyrawley 
and I," he said, "have been dead two years, but we 
do not wish it to be known." 

Voltaire, who under the pretence of being 
always dying, had preserved his youth much bet 
ter, wrote to him on the 24th of October, 1771, 
this pretty letter, signed " Le vieux malade de 
Ferney" : 

"Enjoy an honorable and happy old age, after 
having passed through the trials of life, Enjoy 



68 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

your wit and preserve the health of your body. Of 
the five senses with which we are provided, you have 
only one enfeebled, and Lord Huntingdon assures 
me that you have a good stomach, which is worth a 
pair of ears. It will be perhaps my place to decide 
which is the most sorrowful, to be deaf or blind, or 
have no digestion. I can judge of all these three 
conditions with a knowledge of the cause ; but it is 
a long time since I ventured to decide upon trifles, 
least of all upon things so important. I confine 
myself to the belief that, if you have sun in the 
beautiful house that you have built, you will spend 
some tolerable moments ; that is all we can hope for 
at our age. Cicero wrote a beautiful treatise upon 
old age, but he did not verify his words by deeds; 
his last years were very unhappy. You have lived 
longer and more happily than he did. You have had 
to do neither with perpetual dictators nor with 
triumvirs. Your lot has been, and still is, one of 
the most desirable in that great lottery where good 
tickets are so scarce, and where the Great Prize of 
continual happiness has never been gained by any 
one. Your philosophy has never been upset by 
chimeras which have sometimes perplexed tolerably 
good brains. You have never been in any sense a 
charlatan, nor the dupe of charlatans, and that I 
reckon as a rare merit, which adds something to the 



CRITICAL ESSAY. 69 

shadow of happiness that we are allowed to taste 
of in this short life." 

Lord Chesterfield died on the 24th of March, 
I 773- I n pointing out his charming course of 
worldly education, we have not thought it out of 
place even in a Democracy,* to take lessons of 
savoir vivre and politeness, and to receiva them 
from a man whose name is so closely connected 
with those of Montesquieu and- Voltaire, who, more 
than any other of his countrymen in his own time, 
showed singular fondness for our nation ; who de 
lighted, more than was right, perhaps, in our amia 
ble qualities ; who appreciated our solid virtues, and 
of whom it might be said, as his greatest praise, 
that he was a French wit, if he had not introduced 
into the verve and vivacity of his sallies that inex 
plicable something of imagination and color that 
bears the impress of his race. 

* This was written in June, 1850. 



LORD CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS, SENTENCES, 
AND MAXIMS. 

TRAVEL IN HOLLAND. On me dit, Monsieur! 
que vous vous disposez a voyager, et que vous 
debutez par la Hollande. De sorte j'ai cru de mon 
devoir, de vous souhaiter un bon voyage, et des vents 
favorables. Vous aurez la bonte, j'espere, de me 
faire part de votre arrivee a la Haye ; et si apres 
cela, dans le cours de vos voyages, vous faites 
quelques remarques curieuses, vous voudrez bien me 
les communiquer. 

La Hollande, ou vous allez, est de beaucoup la 
plus belle, et la plus riche des Sept Provinces-Unies, 
qui, toutes ensemble, ferment la Republique. Les 
autres sont celles de Gueldres, Zelande, Frise, 
Utrecht, Groningue, et Over-Yssel. Les Sept Prov 
inces composent, ce qu'on appelle les Etats Generaux 
des Provinces-Unies, et font une Republique tres- 
puissante, et tres-considerable.* 

* This first letter will form a key to Chesterfield's character. 
It is partly badinage, and yet contains the elements of his 
lordship's idea. He has already begun to teach "Mr. Stan 
hope," and addresses as Monsieur a child of the mature age 
of five years. We have purposely omitted other letters, some 
in Latin, Phillipo Stanhope, adhuc puerulo, which contain 
merely historical and geographical information fit for a little 
schoolboy. 

71 



73 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 

Translation. I am informed, sir, that you are 
about to travel, and that you will start with Hol 
land. Therefore I have thought it my duty to wish 
you a pleasant journey and favorable winds. You 
will, I am sure, be so good as to acquaint me with 
your arrival at The Hague; and afterward, if in 
your travels you should observe anything curious, 
will you let me know ? 

Holland, where you are going, is by far the finest 
and richest of the seven united provinces, which 
together form the Republic. The other provinces 
are Guelderland, Zealand, Friesland, Utrecht, Gron- 
ingen, and Overyssel; these seven provinces form 
what is called the States-General of the United 
Provinces, etc.* 

TRUE DECENCY. One of the most important 
points of life is decency; which is to do what is 
proper, and where it is proper; for many things are 
proper at one time, and in one place, that are ex 
tremely improper in another ; for example, it is very 
proper and decent that you should play some part of 
the day; but you must feel that it would be very 
improper and indecent if you were to fly your kite, 
or play at nine-pins while you are with Mr. Mait- 

*Lord Chesterfield was, as will be afterwards seen, particu 
larly anxious that his son should imbibe political, geographical, 
and historical knowledge, hence these details to a child of five. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 73 

taire.* It is very proper and decent to dance well ; 
but then you must dance only at balls and places of 
entertainment; for you would be reckoned a fool if 
you were to dance at church or at a funeral. I hope, 
by these examples, you understand the meaning of 
the word decency, which in French is bienseance; in 
Latin, decorum; and in Greek, npknov. Cicero says 
of it, Sic hoc decorum quod elucet in vita, movet 
approbationem earum quibuscum vivatur, ordine et 
constantia, et moderatione dictorum omnium atque 
factorum : by which you see how necessary decency 
is to gain the approbation of mankind. And, as I 
am sure you desire to gain Mr. Maittaire's appro 
bation, without which you will never have mine, I 
dare say you will mind and give attention to what 
ever he says to you, and behave yourself seriously 
and decently while you are with him; afterward 
play, run, and jump as much as ever you please. 
[July 24, 1759.] 

THE ART OF SPEAKING. You cannot but be con 
vinced that a man who speaks and writes with ele 
gance and grace ; who makes choice of good words, 
and adorns and embellishes the subject upon which 
he either speaks or writes, will persuade better, and 
succeed more easily in obtaining what he wishes, 
than a man who does not explain himself clearly; 
' * Young Mr. Stanhope's tutor. 



74: CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTEES. 

speaks his language ill ; or makes use of low and vul 
gar expressions ; and who has neither grace nor ele 
gance in anything that he says. Now it is by 
rhetoric that the art of speaking eloquently is taught ; 
and, though I cannot think of grounding you in it 
as yet, I would wish, however, to give you an idea of 
it suitable to your age.* 

The first thing you should attend to is, to speak 
whatever language you do speak, in its greatest 
purity, and according to the rules of grammar; for 
we must never offend against grammar, nor make 
use of words which are not really words. This is 
not all ; for not to speak ill, is not sufficient ; we must 
speak well ; and the best method of attaining to that, 
is to read the best authors with attention ; and to ob 
serve how people of fashion speak, and those who 
express themselves best; for shopkeepers, common 
people, footmen, and maid-servants all speak ill. 
[Bath, Oct. 17, 1 7 39.] 

ORATORY. The business of oratory is to persuade 
people; and you easily feel that to please people is 
a great step toward persuading them. You must, 

* In a previous letter, which has been lost, Chesterfield has 
been teaching rhetoric to a boy of about seven years old, for, 
referring to it, he says: "En verite je crois que vous etes le 
premier garcon a qui, avant Vage de huit ans, en ait jamais 
parle des figures de la rhetorique, comme j'ai fait dans ma 
derniere." 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 75 

then, consequently, be sensible how advantageous it 
is for a man, who speaks in public, whether it be in 
Parliament, in the pulpit, or at the bar (that is, in 
the courts of law), to please his hearers so much as 
to gain their attention : which he can never do with 
out the help of oratory. It is not enough to speak 
the language he speaks in its utmost purity, and 
according to the rules of grammar; but he must 
speak it elegantly; that is, he must choose the best 
and most expressive words, and put them in the best 
order. He should likewise adorn what he says by 
proper metaphors, similes, and other figures of 
rhetoric; and he should enliven it, if he can, by 
quick and sprightly turns of wit. [November, 
1739-} 

THE FOLLY OF IGNORANCE. An ignorant man is 
insignificant and contemptible ; nobody cares for his 
company, and he can just be said to live, and that 
is all. There is a very pretty French epigram upon 
the death of such an ignorant, insignificant fellow, 
the sting of which is, that all that can be said of him 
is, that he was once alive, and that he is now dead. 
This is the epigram, which you may get by heart : 

"Colas est mort de maladie, 

Tu veux que j'en pleure le sort, 
Que diable veux-tu que j'en dis? 
Colas vivoit, Colas est mort." 



76 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

Take care not to deserve the name of Colas,* which 
I shall certainly give you, if you do not learn well. 
[No date.] 

Philippus Chesterfield parvulo suo Philippo 
Stanhope, S. P. D. 

PERGRATA mihi fuit epistola tua, quam nuper ac- 
cepi, eleganter enim scripta erat, et polliceris te 
summam operam daturum, ut veras laudes merito 
adipisci possis. Sed ut plane dicam ; valde suspicor 
te, in ea scribenda, optimum et eruditissimum ad- 
jutorem habuisse ; quo duce et auspice, nee elegantia, 
nee doctrina, nee quicquid prorsus est dignum 
sapiente bonoque, unquam tibi deesse poterit. Ilium 
ergo ut quam diligenter colas, te etiam atque etiam 
rogo ; et quo magis eum omni officio, amore, et ob- 
sequio persequeris, eo magis te me studiosum, et 
observantem existimabo.f 

* We learn by a subsequent reference that the little fellow 
wished not to be called Colas, but Polyglot, from knowing 
already three or four languages. 

t CAREFUL IMITATION. Philip Chesterfield to his dear little 
boy Philip Stanhope, wishing health, etc. Your last letter 
was very grateful to me ; not only was it nicely written, but in 
it you promise to take great care and to win, deservedly, true 
praise. But I must say plainly that I much suspect you of 
having had the help of a good and able master in composing 
it; and he being your guide and adviser, it will be your own 
fault if you do not acquire elegancy of style, learning, and all 
that can make you good and wise. I entreat you, therefore, 
carefully to imitate so good a pattern ; the more you regard 
him the more you will love me. [About July, 1741.] 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 77 

A STUDY IN VERSE. To use your ear a little to 
English verse, and to make you attend to the sense, 
too, I have transposed the words of the following 
lines; which I would have you put in their proper 
order, and send me in your next : 

"Life consider cheat a when 't is all I 
Hope the fool'd deceit men yet with favor 
Repay will to-morrow trust on think and 
Falser former day to-morrow's than the 
Worse lies blest be shall when and we says it 
Hope new some possess'd cuts off with we what." 

[This is curious, and truly no bad way of teach 
ing a child the structure of verse. The citation, a 
fine one, is from Dry den : 

"When I consider life, 't is all a cheat, 
Yet fool'd with hope men favor the deceit." 

The reader may puzzle out the rest.] 

VIRTUE DISCOURAGED. If six hundred citizens 
of Athens gave in the name of any one Athenian, 
written upon an oyster-shell (from whence it is 
called ostracism), that man was banished Athens 
for ten years. On one hand, it is certain, that a free 
people cannot be too careful or jealous of their lib 
erty; and it is certain, too, that the love and ap 
plause of mankind will always attend, a man of emi 
nent and distinguished virtue; and, consequently, 
they are more likely to give up their liberties to such 



78 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

a one than to another of less merit. But then, on 
the other hand, it seems extraordinary to discourage 
virtue upon any account; since it is only by virtue 
that any society can flourish, and be considerable. 
There are many more arguments, on each side of 
this question, which will naturally occur to you ; and 
when you have considered them well, I desire you 
will write me your opinion, whether the ostracism 
was a right or a wrong thing, and your reasons for 
being of that opinion. Let nobody help you, and 
give me exactly your own sentiments and your own 
reasons, whatever they are. [October, 1740."} 

AMBITION. Everybody has ambition of some 
kind or other, and is vexed when that ambition is 
disappointed; the difference is, that the ambition of 
silly people is a silly and mistaken ambition ; and the 
ambition of people of sense is a right and com 
mendable one. For instance, the ambition of a silly 
boy, of your age, would be to have fine clothes, and 
money to throw away in idle follies; which, you 
plainly see, would be no proofs of merit in him, but 
only of folly in his parents, in dressing him out like 
a jackanapes, and giving him money to play the 
fool with. Whereas a boy of good sense places his 
ambition in excelling other boys of his own age, and 
even plcjer, in virtue and knowledge. His glory, is 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 79 

in being known always to speak the truth, in show 
ing good-nature and compassion, in learning quicker, 
and applying himself more than other boys. These 
are real proofs of merit in him, and consequently 
proper objects of ambition ; and will acquire him a 
solid reputation and character. This holds true in 
men as well as in boys ; the ambition of a silly fellow 
will be to have a fine equipage, a fine house, and fine 
clothes; things which anybody, that has as much 
money, may have as well as he; for they are all to 
be bought; but the ambition of a man of sense and 
honor is to be distinguished by a character and repu 
tation of knowledge, truth, and virtue things 
which are not to be bought, and that can only be 
acquired by a good head and a good heart. [Not 
dated.'] 

HUMANITY. It is certain that humanity is the 
particular characteristic of a great mind; little, 
vicious minds are full of anger and revenge, and are 
incapable of feeling the exalted pleasure of forgiv 
ing their enemies, and of bestowing marks of favor 
and generosity upon those of whom they have gotten 
the better. Adieu !* 

*In the beginning of this letter, which contains a lesson 
upon Julius Caesar, Chesterfield says: "You know so much 
more and learn so much better than any boy of your age, that 
you see I do not treat you like a boy, but write to you on sub 
jects fit for men to consider." 



80 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

NOVELS AND ROMANCES. A novel is a kind of 
abbreviation of a romance ; for a romance generally 
consists of twelve volumes, all filled with insipid love 
nonsense, and most incredible adventures. The sub 
ject of a romance is sometimes a story entirely fic 
titious, that is to say, quite invented; at other times 
a true story, but generally so changed and altered 
that one cannot know it. For example : in "Grand 
Cyrus," "Clelia," and "Cleopatra," three celebrated 
romances, there is some true history ; but so blended 
with falsities and silly love adventures, that they 
confuse and corrupt the mind, instead of forming 
and instructing it. The greatest heroes of antiquity 
are there represented in woods and forests, whining 
insipid love tales to their inhuman fair one; who 
answers them in the same style. In short, the read 
ing of romances is a most frivolous occupation, and 
time merely thrown away. [The little boy was then 
reading the historical novel of "Don Carlos," by the 
Abbe de St. Real. ( Not dated. ) ] 

VIRTUE. Virtue is a subject that deserves your 
and every man's attention; and suppose I were to 
bid you make some verses, or give me your thoughts 
in prose, upon the subject of virtue, how would you 
go about it? Why, you would first consider what 
virtue is, and then what are the effects and marks 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 81 

of it, both with regard to others and one's self. You 
would find, then, that virtue consists in doing good, 
and in speaking truth ; and that the effects of it are 
advantageous to all mankind, and to one's self in 
particular. Virtue makes us pity and relieve the 
misfortunes of mankind; it makes us promote jus 
tice and good order in society ; and, in general, con 
tributes to whatever tends to the real good of man 
kind. To ourselves it gives an inward comfort and 
satisfaction which nothing else can do, and which 
nothing can rob us of. All other advantages depend 
upon others, as much as upon ourselves. Riches, 
power, and greatness may be taken away from us by 
the violence and injustice of others or inevitable ac 
cidents, but virtue depends only on ourselves and 
nobody can take it away. [Headed only Sunday.] 

THE REWARD OF VIRTUE. If a virtuous man be 
ever so poor or unfortunate in the world, still his 
virtue is his own reward and will comfort him under 
his afflictions. The quiet and satisfaction of his con 
science make him cheerful by day and sleep sound 
of nights ; he can be alone with pleasure and is not 
afraid of his own thoughts. Besides this, he is es 
teemed and respected; for even the most wicked peo 
ple themselves cannot help admiring and respecting 
virtue in others. A poet says ; 



82 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

"Ipsa quidem virtus, sibimet pulcherrima merces." * 

POLITENESS A NECESSITY. Know, then, that as 
learning, honor, and virtue are absolutely necessary 
to gain you the esteem and admiration of mankind; 
politeness and good breeding are equally necessary, 
to make you welcome and agreeable in conversation 
and common life. Great talents, such as honor, vir 
tue, learning, and parts, are above the generality of 
the world ; who neither possess them themselves, nor 
judge of them rightly in others; but all people are 
judges of the lesser talents, such as civility, affabil 
ity, and an obliging, agreeable address and manner; 
because they feel the good effects of them, as mak 
ing society easy and pleasing. 

GOOD BREEDING AND GOOD SENSE. Good sense 
must, in many cases, determine good breeding; be 
cause the same thing that would be civil at one time, 
and to one person, may be quite otherwise at an 
other time, and to another person; but there are 
some general rules of good breeding, that hold 
always true, and in all cases. [About February, 
1741.} 

* So also Home, 

"Amen! and virtue is its own reward." 

Douglas, Act. iii. Sc. I. 
And Claudian, quoted by Chesterfield, 

"Ipsa quidem virtus pretium sibi, solaque late 
Fortunae secura nitet," etc. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 3 

RUDENESS AND CIVILITY. I dare say I need not 
tell you how rude it is, to take the best place in a 
room, or to seize immediately upon what you like 
at table, without offering first to help others; as if 
you consider nobody but yourself. On the contrary, 
you should always endeavor to procure all the con 
veniences you can to the people you are with. Be 
sides being civil, which is absolutely necessary, the 
perfection of good breeding is, to be civil with ease, 
and in a gentlemanlike manner. For this, you 
should observe the French people; who excel in it, 
and whose politeness seems as easy and natural as 
any other part of their conversation. Whereas the 
English are often awkward in their ciyilities, and, 
when they mean to be civil, are too much ashamed 
to get it out. 

MAUVAISE HONTE. Pray, do you remember 
never to be ashamed of doing what is right; you 
would have a great deal of reason to be ashamed, if 
you were not civil ; but what reason can you have to 
be ashamed of being civil ? And why not say a civil 
and an obliging thing, as easily and as naturally, as 
you would ask what o'clock it is? This kind of 
bashfulness, which is justly called, by the French, 
mauvaise honte, is the distinguishing character of 
an English booby ; who is frightened out of his wits 



84: CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 

when people of fashion speak to him; and when he 
is to answer them, blushes, stammers, can hardly 
get out what he would say, and becomes really 
ridiculous, from a groundless fear of being laughed 
at; whereas a well-bred man would speak to all the 
kings in the world with as little concern and as much 
ease as he would speak to you. 

YOUTHFUL EMULATION. This is the last letter 
I shall write to you as to a little boy; for, to-mor 
row, if I am not mistaken, you will attain your ninth 
year; so that for the future I shall treat you as a 
youth. You must now commence a different course 
of life, a different course of studies. No more levity ; 
childish toys and playthings must be thrown aside, 
and your mind directed to serious objects. What 
was not unbecoming of a child would be disgraceful 
to a youth. Wherefore, endeavor, with all your 
might, to show a suitable change ; and, by learning, 
good manners, politeness, and other accomplish 
ments, to surpass those youths of your own age, 
whom hitherto you have surpassed when boys.* 
May the Almighty preserve you and bestow on you 
his choicest blessings. 

TRUE RESPECT. The strictest and most scrupu- 

* Written in Latin. Philippus Chesterfield, Phillippo Stan 
hope adhuc puerulo, sed eras e puerilia egressuro. S. D. 
Dated, Kalend, Maii, 1741. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 85 

lous honor and virtue can alone make you esteemed 
and valued by mankind; [remember] that parts and 
learning can alone make you admired and celebrated 
by them ; but that the possession of lesser talents is 
most absolutely necessary, toward making you liked, 
beloved, and sought after in private life. Of these 
lesser talents, good breeding is the principal and 
most necessary one, not only as it is very important 
itself; but as it adds great lustre to the more solid 
advantages both of the heart and the mind. 

MANNER. An easy manner and carriage must 
be wholly free from those odd tricks, ill habits, and 
awkwardnesses, which even very worthy and sen 
sible people have in their behavior. [May, 



MANNER ABSENCE AWKWARDNESS ATTEN 
TION. However trifling a genteel manner may 
sound, it is of very great consequence towards pleas 
ing in private life, especially the women; which 
(sic), one time or other, you will think worth pleas 
ing; and I have known many a man, from his awk 
wardness, give people such a dislike of him at first, 
that all his merit could not get the better of it after 
wards. Whereas a genteel manner prepossesses peo 
ple in your favor, bends them to wards you and makes 
them wish to like you. Awkwardness can proceed 
but from two causes : either from not having kept 



86 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTEES. 

good company, or from not having attended to it 
As for your keeping good company, I will take care 
of that ; do you take care to observe their ways and 
manners, and to form your own upon them. Atten 
tion is absolutely necessary for this, as, indeed, it is 
for everything else ; and a man without attention is 
not fit to live in the world. When an awkward fel 
low first comes into a room it is highly probable 
that his sword gets between his legs, and throws 
him down, or makes him stumble at least; when he 
has recovered this accident, he goes and places him 
self in the very place of the whole room where he 
should not ; there he soon lets his hat fall down, and, 
in taking it up again, throws down his cane; in re 
covering his cane, his hat falls a second time; so 
that he is a quarter of an hour before he is in order 
again. If he drinks tea or coffee, he certainly 
scalds his mouth, and lets either the cup or the 
saucer fall, and spills the tea or coffee in his breeches. 
At dinner his awkwardness distinguishes itself par 
ticularly, as he has more to do; there he holds his 
knife, fork, and spoon differently from other peo 
ple; eats with his knife to the great danger of his 
mouth, picks his teeth with his fork, and puts his 
spoon, which has been in his throat twenty times, 
into the dishes again. If he is to carve, he can never 
'..it the joint; but, in his vain efforts to cut through 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 87 

the bone, scatters the sauce in everybody's face. He 
generally daubs ' himself with soup and grease, 
though his napkin is commonly stuck through a but 
tonhole, and tickles his chin. When he drinks, he 
infallibly coughs in his glass and besprinkles the 
company. Besides all this, he has strange tricks and 
gestures ; such as snuffing up his nose, making faces, 
putting his fingers in his nose, or blowing it and 
looking afterward in his handkerchief, so as to make 
the company sick. His hands are troublesome to 
him when he has not something in them, and he does 
not know where to put them; but they are in per 
petual motion between his bosom and his breeches; 
he does not wear his clothes, and, in short, does noth 
ing like other people. All this, I own, is not in any 
degree criminal; but it is highly disagreeable and 
ridiculous in company, and ought most carefully to 
be avoided by whoever desires to please. 

From this account of what you should not do, you 
may easily judge what you should do; and a due 
attention to the manners of people of fashion, and 
who have seen the world, will make it habitual and 
familiar to you. 

There is, likewise, an awkwardness of expression 
and words, most carefully to be avoided; such as 
false English, bad pronunciation, old sayings, and 
common proverbs ; which are so many proofs of hav- 



88 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTERS. 

ing kept bad and low company. For example: if, 
instead of saying that tastes are different, and that 
every man has his own peculiar one, you should let 
off a proverb, and say, "What is one man's meat is 
another man's poison" ; or else, "Every one as they 
like, as the good man said when he kissed his cow" ; 
everybody would be persuaded that you had never 
kept company with anybody above footmen and 
housemaids. 

Attention will do all this; and without attention 
nothing is to be done; want of attention, which is 
really want of thought, is either folly or madness. 
You should not only have attention to everything, 
but a quickness of attention, so as to observe, at 
once, all the people in the room ; their motions, their 
looks, and their words; and yet without staring at 
them, and seeming to be an observer. This quick 
and unobserved observation is of infinite advantage 
in life, and is to be acquired with care ; and, on the 
contrary, what is called absence, which is a thought 
lessness and want of attention about what is doing, 
makes a man so like either a fool or a madman, that, 
for my part, I see no real difference. A fool never 
has thought, a madman has lost it; and an absent 
man is, for the time, without it.* [Dated Spa, July 
25, N. S. 7741.-] 

* In the compilation called "Lord Chesterfield's Maxims," 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 89 

TRUE PRAISE. Laudari a viro laudato was al 
ways a commendable ambition; encourage that am 
bition and continue to deserve the praises of the 
praiseworthy. While you do so you shall have 
everything you will from me ; and when you cease to 
do so you shall have nothing. 

AN AWKWARD MIND. I have warned you 
against odd motions, strange postures, and ungenteel 
carriage. But there is likewise an awkwardness of 
the mind that ought to be, and with care may be, 
avoided; as, for instance, to mistake or forget 
names; to speak of Mr. What-d'ye-call-him, or Mrs. 
Thingum, or How-d'ye-call-her, is excessively awk 
ward and ordinary. To call people by improper 
titles and appellations is so, too ; as my Lord for sir ; 
and sir for my Lord. To begin a story or narration, 
when you are not perfect in it, and cannot go 
through with it, but are forced, possibly, to say in 
the middle of it, "I have forgot the rest," is very 
unpleasant and bungling. One must be extremely 
exact, clear, and perspicuous in everything one says, 
otherwise, instead of entertaining or informing 
others, one only tires and puzzles them. The voice 
and manner of speaking, too, are not to be neglected ; 

wherein part of this letter is given, all the characteristic points 
are left put. Thus, where Chesterfield reminds his son that 
manner is of consequence in pleasing, especially the women, 
the purist has excised the words in italics. 



90 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

some people almost shut their mouths when they 
speak, and mutter so, that they are not to be under 
stood ; others speak so fast and sputter so, that they 
are not to be understood neither ; some always speak 
as loud as if they were talking to deaf people; and 
others so low that one cannot hear them. All these 
habits are awkward and disagreeable ; and are to be 
avoided by attention; they are the distinguishing 
marks of the ordinary people, who have had no care 
taken of their education. You cannot imagine how 
necessary it is to mind all these little things; for I 
have seen many people with great talents ill received, 
for want of having these talents, too; and others 
well received only from their little talents, and who 
had no great ones. 

ORATORY AND HARD WORK. Demosthenes, the 
celebrated Greek orator, thought it so absolutely nec 
essary to speak well, that though he naturally stut 
tered, and had weak lungs, he resolved, by applica 
tion and care, to get the better of those disadvan 
tages. Accordingly, he cured his stammering by 
putting small pebbles into his mouth; and strength 
ened his lungs gradually, by using himself every day 
to speak aloud and distinctly for a considerable time. 
He likewise went often to the seashore, in stormy 
weather, when the sea made most noise, and there 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 91 

spoke as loud as he could, in order to use himself to 
the noise and murmurs of the popular assemblies of 
the Athenians, before whom he was to speak. By 
such care, joined to the constant study of the best 
authors, he became at last the greatest orator of his 
own or any other age or country, though he was 
born without any one natural talent for it. Adieu ! 
Copy Demosthenes. [(?) August, 1/41.] 

KEEP YOUR WORD. I am sure you know that 
breaking of your word is a folly, a dishonor, and a 
crime. It is a folly, because nobody will trust you 
afterward; and it is both a dishonor and a crime, 
truth being the first duty of religion and morality; 
and whoever has not truth cannot be supposed to 
have any one good quality, and must become the 
detestation of God and man. Therefore I expect, 
from your truth and your honor, that you will do 
that, which independently of your promise, your own 
interest and ambition ought to incline you to do; 
that is, to excel in everything you undertake. When 
I was of your age, I should have been ashamed if 
any boy of that age had learned his book better, or 
played at any play better than I did ; and I would not 
have rested a moment till I had got before him. 
Julius Caesar, who had a noble thirst of glory, used 
to say that he would rather be the first in a village 



92 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

than the second in Rome ; and he even cried when he 
saw the statue of Alexander the Great, with the re 
flection of how much more glory Alexander had 
acquired, at thirty years old, than he at a much more 
advanced age. These are the sentiments to make 
people considerable; and those who have them not 
will pass their lives in obscurity and contempt; 
whereas those who endeavor to excel all, are at least 
sure of excelling a great many. [June, 1742.] 

GOOD BREEDING. Though I need not tell one of 
your age,* experience, and knowledge of the world, 
how necessary good breeding is, to recommend one 
to mankind; yet, as your various occupations of 
Greek and cricket, Latin and pitch-farthing, may 
possibly divert your attention from this object, I 
take the liberty of reminding you of it, and desiring 
you to be very well bred at Lord Orrery's. It is good 
breeding alone that can prepossess people in your 
favor at first sight; more time being necessary to 
discover greater talents. This good breeding, you 
know, does not consist in low bows and formal cere 
mony ; but in an easy, civil, and respectful behavior. 
You will therefore take care to answer with com 
plaisance, when you are spoken to; to place yourself 
at the lower end of the table, unless bid to go higher ; 

* His Lordship's badinage, or it may be sarcasm, which the 
little boy quickly perceived. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 93 

to drink first to the lady of the house, and next to 
the master; not to eat awkwardly or dirtily; not to 
sit when others stand ; and to do all this with an air 
of complaisance, and not with a grave, sour look, as 
if you did it at all unwillingly. ['No date, Letter 
7 o.] 

LETTER WRITING. Let your letter be written as 
accurately as you are able I mean with regard to 
language, grammar, and stops ; for as to the matter 
of it the less trouble you give yourself the better it 
will be. Letters should be easy and natural, and 
convey to the persons to whom we send them, just 
what we should say to the persons if we were with 
them. [No date, Letter 72.] 

THE RESULTS OF CARELESSNESS. To this os- 
citancy we owe so many mistakes, hiatus's (sic), 
lacunae, etc., in ancient manuscripts. It may be here 
necessary to explain to you the meaning of the 
oscitantes librarii; which I believe you will easily 
take. These persons (before printing was invented) 
transcribed the works of authors, sometimes for 
their own profit, but oftener (as they were generally 
slaves) for the profit of their masters. In the first 
case, dispatch, more than accuracy, was their ob 
ject; for the faster they wrote the more they got; 
in the latter case (observe this), as it was a task im- 



94 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

posed on them, which they did not dare to refuse, 
they were idle, careless, and incorrect; not giving 
themselves the trouble to read over what they had 
written. The celebrated Atticus kept a great num 
ber of these transcribing slaves, and got great sums 
of money by their labors. [November, 1745.] 

GREEK EPIGRAMS. I hope you will keep com 
pany with Horace and Cicero among the Romans; 
and Homer and Xenophon among the Greeks, and 
that you have got out of the worst company in the 
world, the Greek epigrams. Martial has wit and is 
worth your looking into sometimes, but I recom 
mend the Greek epigrams to your supreme contempt. 
Good night to you. [Same date.'} 

DANCING TRIFLING. Dancing is in itself a very 
trifling, silly thing; but it is one of those established 
follies to which people of sense are sometimes 
obliged to conform ; and then they should be able to 
do it well. And, though I would not have you a 
dancer, yet, when you do dance, I would have you 
dance well, as I would have you do everything you 
do, well. There is no one thing so trifling, but 
which (if it is to be done at all) ought to be done 
well. And I have often told you that I wished you 
even played at pitch and cricket better than any boy 
at Westminster. For instance : dress is a very fool- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 95 

ish thing; and yet it is a very foolish thing for a 
man not to be well dressed, according to his rank 
and way of life; and it is so far from being a dis 
paragement to any man's understanding, that it is 
rather a proof of it, to be as well dressed as those 
whom he lives with. The difference in this case ber 
tween a man of sense and a fop is, that the fop values 
himself upon his dress ; and the man of sense laughs 
at it, at the same time that he knows he must not 
neglect it. There are a thousand foolish customs 
of this kind, which not being criminal must be com 
plied with, and even cheerfully, by men of sense. 
Diogenes the cynic was a wise man for despising 
them, but a fool for showing it. Be wiser than 
other people if you can, but do not tell them so. 
[Dublin Castle, Nov. ip, 1/45.*] 

THE PASSIONS. Whenever you would persuade 
or prevail, address yourself to the passions ; it is by 
them that mankind is to be taken. Caesar bade his 
soldiers, at the battle of Pharsalia, aim at the faces 
of Pompey's men ; they did so, and prevailed. I bid 
you strike at the passions; and if you do, you, too, 
will prevail. If you can once engage people's pride, 
love, pity, ambition (or whichever is their prevail 
ing passion) on your side, you need not fear what 
their reason can do against you. [Same date.] 
* His lordship was then Viceroy of Ireland. 



96 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEKS. 

MY DEAR BOY : 

"Sunt quibus in Satira videar nimis acer." 

I find, sir, you are one of those; though I cannot 
imagine why you think so, unless something that I 
have said, very innocently, has happened to be very 
applicable to somebody or other of your acquain 
tance. He makes the satire, who applies it, qui capit 
ille facit. I hope you do not think I meant you, by 
anything I have said ; because, if you do, it seems to 
imply a consciousness of some guilt, which I dare 
not presume to suppose, in your case. I know my 
duty too well, to express, and your merit too well to 
entertain, such a suspicion. I have not lately read 
the satirical authors you mention, having very little 
time here to read. [Dublin, February, I? 46. ~\ 

INATTENTION. There is no surer sign in the 
world of a little, weak mind, than inattention. 
Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well ; 
and nothing can be done well without attention. It 
is the sure answer of a fool, when you ask him 
about anything that was said or done where he was 
present, that "truly he did not mind it." And why 
did not the fool mind it? What had he else to do 
there, but to mind what was doing? A man of 
sense sees, hears, and retains everything that passes 
where he is. I desire I may never hear you talk of 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 97 

not minding, nor complain, as most fools do, of a 
treacherous memory. Mind, not only what people 
say, but how they say it ; and, if you have any sagac 
ity, you may discover more truth by your eyes than 
by your ears. People can say what they will, but they 
cannot look what they will, and their looks fre 
quently discover what their words are calculated to 
conceal. The most material knowledge of all I 
mean the knowledge of the world is not to be ac 
quired without great attention. [Feb. 26, 1746.] 

WOMEN CLASSES OF MEN JUDGMENT. Be 
fore it is very long, I am of opinion that you will 
both think and speak more favorably of women than 
you do now. You seem to think, that, from Eve 
downward, they have done a great deal of mischief. 
As for that lady, I give her up to you; but, since 
her time, history will inform you that men have done 
much more mischief in the world than women ; and, 
to say the truth, I would not advise you to trust 
either more than is absolutely necessary. But this I 
will advise you to, which is, never to attack whole 
bodies of any kind ; for, besides that all general rules 
have their exceptions, you unnecessarily make your 
self a great number of enemies, by attacking a corps 
collectively. Among women, as among men, there 
are good as well as bad, and it may be full as many, 



98 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEKS. 

or more, good than among men. This rule holds as 
to lawyers, soldiers, parsons, courtiers, citizens, etc. 
They are all men, subject to the same passions and 
sentiments, differing only in the manner, according 
to their several educations ; and it would be as im 
prudent as unjust to attack any of them by the lump. 
Individuals forgive sometimes; but bodies and so 
cieties never do. Many young people think it very 
genteel and witty to abuse the clergy ; in which they 
are extremely mistaken; since, in my opinion, par 
sons are very like other men, and neither the better 
nor the worse for wearing a black gown. All gen 
eral reflections, upon nations and societies, are the 
trite, threadbare jokes of those who set up for wit 
without having any, and so have recourse to com 
monplace. Judge of individuals from your own 
knowledge of them, and not from their sex, profes 
sion, or denomination. [April, 1746.] 

How TO TRAVEL. I am very well pleased to find 
that you inform yourself of the particulars of the 
several places you go through. You do mighty 
right to see the curiosities in those several places; 
such as the golden Bull at Frankfort, the tun at 
Heidelberg, etc. Other travellers see them and talk 
of them ; it is very proper to see them, too ; but re 
member, that seeing is the least material object of , 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 99 

travelling; hearing and knowing are the essential 
points.* [September, 1746. From Bath.] 

FALSE DELICACY. As for the mauvaise honte, I 
hope you are above it ; your figure is like other peo 
ple's, I hope you will take care that your dress is so, 
too. Why, then, should you be ashamed? Why 
not go into mixed company with as little concern as 
you would into your. own room? [Bath, Septem 
ber.] 

THE WELL-BRED MAN. Feels himself firm and 
easy in all companies ; is modest without being bash 
ful, and steady without being impudent; if he is a 
stranger, he observes, with care, the manners and 
ways of the people the most esteemed at that place, 
and conforms to them with complaisance. Instead 
of finding fault with the customs of that place, and 
telling the people that the English ones are a thou 
sand times better (as my countrymen are very apt 
to do), he commends their table, their dress, their 
houses, and their manners, a little more, it may be, 
than he really thinks they deserve. But this degree 
of complaisance is neither criminal nor abject; 
and is but a small price to pay for the good-will and 
affection of the people you converse with. As the 

* Mr. Stanhope was then travelling with his tutor in Ger 
many. 



100 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

generality of people are weak enough to be pleased 
with these little things, those who refuse to please 
them, so cheaply, are, in my mind, weaker than they. 
[Same month, 0. S., 1746.] 

"L'ART DE PLAIRE." There is a very pretty lit 
tle French book written by L'Abbe de Bellegarde, 
entitled "L'Art de Plaire dans la Conversation"*', 
and, though I confess that it is impossible to reduce 
the art of pleasing to a system, yet this principle I 
will lay down, that the desire of pleasing is at least 
half the art of doing it; the rest depends only upon 
the manner, which attention, observation, and fre 
quenting good company will teach. But if you are 
lazy, careless, and indifferent whether you please or 
not, depend upon it you never will please. [Same 
date.] 

CHESTERFIELD'S INTENTION. Do not think I 
mean to dictate as a parent; I only mean to advise 
as a friend, and an indulgent one, too; and do not 
apprehend that I mean to check your pleasures; of 
which, on the contrary, I only desire to be the guide, 
not the censor. Let my experience supply your want 
of it and clear your way in the progress of your 

*A jgood-natured but somewhat silly book in which M. 
L'Abbe instructs certain young ladies and gentlemen by means 
of sundry conversations and reflections, 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 101 

youth of those thorns and briers which scratched 
and disfigured me in the course of mine. [Bath, 
Oct. 4, 1746.] 

His SON'S UTTER DEPENDENCE. I do not, 
therefore, so much as hint to you how absolutely de 
pendent you are on me that you neither have nor 
can have a shilling in the world but from me; and 
that as I have no womanish weakness for your per 
son, your merit must, and will, be the only measure 
of my kindness I say, I do not hint these things to 
you because I am convinced that you will act right, 
upon more noble and generous principles ; I mean for 
the sake of doing right, and out of affection and 
gratitude to me. [Same date.] 

No SMATTERING. Mr. Pope says, very truly, 

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; 
Drink deep, or taste not the Castalian spring." 

And what is called a smattering of everything in 
fallibly constitutes a coxcomb. I have often, of late, 
reflected what an unhappy man I must now have 
been, if I had not acquired in my youth some fund 
and taste of learning. What could I have done with 
myself, at this age, without them ? I must, as many 
ignorant people do, have destroyed my health and 
faculties by setting away the evenings ; or, by wast 
ing them frivolously in the tattle of women's com 
pany, must have exposed myself to the ridicule and 



102 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTERS. 

contempt of those very women; or, lastly, I must 
have hanged myself, as a man once did, for weari 
ness of putting on and pulling off his shoes and 
stockings every day. My books, and only my books, 
are now left me, and I daily find what Cicero says 
of learning to be true: "Haec studia" (says he) 
"adolescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas 
res ornant, adversis perfugium, ac solatium praebent, 
delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant 
nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur." [October, 
1746.} 

FOOLISH TALK. The conversation of the ignor 
ant is no conversation, and gives even them no pleas 
ure; they tire of their own sterility, and have not 
matter enough to furnish them with words to keep 
up a conversation. [Same date.] 

WORLD KNOWLEDGE. Do not imagine that the 
knowledge, which I so much recommend to you, is 
confined to books, pleasing, useful, and necessary as 
that knowledge is ; but I comprehend in it the great 
knowledge of the world, still more necessary than 
that of books. In truth, they assist one another re 
ciprocally; and no man will have either perfectly, 
who has not both. The knowledge of the world is 
only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet. 
Books alone will never teach it you; but they will 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 103 

suggest many things to your observation, which 
might otherwise escape you ; and your own observa 
tions upon mankind, when compared with those 
which you will find in books, will help you to fix the 
true point. [November, 1746.] 

OLD FOOLS. To know mankind well requires full 
as much attention and application as to know books, 
and, it may be, more sagacity and discernment. I 
am, at this time, acquainted with many elderly peo 
ple, who have all passed their whole lives in the 
great world, but with such levity and inattention, 
that they know no more of it now than they did at 
fifteen. [Same date.] 

INTROSPECTION. You must look into people, as 
well as at them. Almost all people are born with all 
the passions, to a certain degree; but almost every 
man has a prevailing one, to which the others are 
subordinate. Search every one for that ruling pas 
sion; pry into the recesses of his heart, and observe 
the different workings of the same passion in differ 
ent people. And, when you have found out the 
prevailing passion of any man, remember never to 
trust him, where that passion is concerned. Work 
upon him by it, if you please; but be upon your 
guard yourself against it, whatever professions he 
may make you. [Same date.] 



104 



CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 



YOUNG STANHOPE'S CHARACTER. In the strict 
scrutiny which I have made into you, I have (thank 
God) hitherto not discovered any vice of the heart, 
or any peculiar weakness of the head: but I have 
discovered laziness, inattention, and indifference; 
faults which are only pardonable in old men, who, 
in the decline of life, when health and spirits fail, 
have a kind of claim to that sort of tranquillity. But 
a young man should be ambitious to shine, and 
excel; alert, active, and indefatigable in the means 
of doing it ; and, like Caesar, "Nil actum reputans, si 
quid superesset agendum." You seem to want that 
"vivida vis animi," which spurs and excites most 
young men to please, to shine, to excel. Without 
the desire and the pains necessary to be considerable, 
depend upon it, you never can be so; as, without 
the desire and attention necessary to please, you 
never can please. "Nullum numen abest, si sit pru- 
dentia," is unquestionably true, with regard to 
everything except poetry. [November, 



How TO DRESS. Take great care always to be 
dressed like the reasonable people of your own age, 
in the place where you are; whose dress is never 
spoken of one way or another, as either too negli 
gent or too much studied. [Same date.] 

ABSENT PEOPLE. What is commonly called an 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 105 

absent man, is commonly either a very weak or a 
very affected man ; but be he which he will, he is, I 
am sure, a very disagreeable man in company. He 
fails in all the common offices of civility; he seems 
not to know those people to-day, with whom yester 
day he appeared to live in intimacy. He takes no 
part in the general conversation; but, on the con 
trary, breaks into it from time to time, with some 
start of his own, as if he waked from a dream. This 
(as I said before) is a sure indication, either of a 
mind so weak that it is not able to bear above one 
object at a time; or so affected, that it would be 
supposed to be wholly engrossed by, and directed 
to, some very great and important objects. Sir 
Isaac Newton, Mr. Locke, and (it may be) five or 
six more, since the creation of the world, may have 
had a right to absence, from that intense thought 
which the things they were investigating required. 
But if a young man, and a man of the world, who 
has no such avocations to plead, will claim and 
exercise that right of absence in company, his pre 
tended right should, in my mind, be turned into an 
involuntary absence, by his perpetual exclusion out 
of company. [Same date.] 

INSULT AND INJURY. However frivolous a com 
pany may be, still, while you are among them, do 



106 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

not show them by your inattention that you think 
them so; but rather take their tone, and conform 
in some degree to their weakness, instead of mani 
festing your contempt for them. There is nothing 
that people bear more impatiently, or forgive less, 
than contempt; and an injury is much sooner for 
gotten than an insult. [Same date.] 

FLATTERY. Most people (I might say all people) 
have their weaknesses; they have their aversions 
and their likings to such and such things; so that, 
if you were to laugh at a man for his aversion to a 
cat, or cheese (which are common antipathies), or, 
by inattention and negligence, to let them come in 
his way where you could prevent it, he would, in 
the first case, think himself insulted, and, in the 
second, slighted; and would remember both. 
Whereas your care to procure for him what he likes, 
and to remove from him what he hates, shows him 
that he is at least an object of your attention, flatters 
his vanity, and makes him possibly more your friend 
than a more important service would have done. 
With regard to women, attentions still below these 
are necessary, and, by the custom of the world, in 
some measure due, according to the laws of good 
breeding. 

His LETTERS. My long and frequent letters, 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 10? 

which I send you, in great doubt of their success, 
put me in mind of certain papers, which you have 
very lately, and I formerly, sent up to kites, along 
the string, which we called messengers; some of 
them the wind used to blow away, others were torn 
by the string, and but few of them got up and stuck 
to the kite. But I will content myself now, as I 
did then, if some of my present messages do but 
stick to you. 

EMPLOYMENT OF TIME. I hope you employ 
your whole time, which few people do ; and that you 
put every moment to profit of some kind or other. 
I call company, walking, riding, etc., employing 
one's time, and, upon proper occasions, very use 
fully ; but what I cannot forgive in anybody is saun 
tering, and doing nothing at all with a thing so 
precious as time, and so irrecoverable when lost. 
[Dec. 9, O. S., 1746*] 

VULGAR PLEASURES. Many young people adopt 
pleasures for which they have not the least taste, 
only because they are called by that name. They 
often mistake so totally as to imagine that debauch 
ery is pleasure. You must allow that drunkenness, 
which is equally destructive to body and mind, is a 
fine pleasure. Gaming, that draws you into a thou- 

* His lordship had during this year been made one of his 
Majesty's Secretaries of State. 



108 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

sand scrapes, leaves you penniless, and gives you the 
air and manners of an outrageous madman, is 
another most exquisite pleasure, is it not ? As to run 
ning after women, the consequences of that vice 
are only the loss of one's nose, the total destruction 
of health, and, not unfrequently, the being run 
through the body. [March, 1747.] 

A GENTLEMAN'S PLEASURES. The true pleas 
ures of a gentleman are, those of the table, but 
within the bounds of moderation; good company, 
that is to say, people of merit ; moderate play, which 
amuses without any interested views ; and sprightly, 
gallant conversations with women of fashion and 
sense. 

These are the real pleasures of a gentleman: 
which occasion neither sickness, shame, nor repent 
ance. Whatever exceeds them becomes low vice, 
brutal passion, debauchery, and insanity of mind; 
all of which, far from giving satisfaction, bring on 
dishonor and disgrace. Adieu. [Same date.~\ 

VIRTUE AND GOLD. Virtue and learning, like 
gold, have their intrinsic value; but if they are not 
polished they certainly lose a great deal of their 
lustre; and even polished brass will pass upon more 
people than rough gold. What a number of sins 
does the cheerful, easy, good breeding of the French 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 109 

frequently cover? Many of them want common 
sense, many more common learning ; but, in general, 
they make up so much by their manner for those 
defects, that frequently they pass undiscovered. I 
have often said, and do think, that a Frenchman, 
who, with a fund of virtue, learning, and good sense, 
has the manners and good breeding of his country, 
is the perfection of human nature. [Same date.] 

PLEASURE. Do not think that I mean to snarl 
at pleasure like a stoic, or to preach against it like 
a parson ; no, I mean to point it out, and recommend 
it like an epicurean ; I wish you a great deal, and my 
only view is to hinder you from mistaking it. 
[March 6, 1747.] 

GOODNESS. You know what virtue is; you may 
have it if you will ; it is in every man's power, and 
miserable is the man who has it not. [Same date.'] 

THE MAN OF PLEASURE. The character which 
most young men first aim at is that of a man of 
pleasure ; but they generally take it upon trust ; and, 
instead of consulting their own taste and inclina 
tions, they blindly adopt whatever those with whom 
they chiefly converse are pleased to call by the name 
of pleasure; and a man of pleasure, in the vulgar 
acceptation of that phrase, means only a beastly 



110 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

drunkard, an abandoned whoremaster, and a profli 
gate swearer and curser. As it may be of use to 
you, I am not unwilling, though at the same time 
ashamed, to own that the vices of my youth pro 
ceeded much more from my silly resolution of being 
what I heard called a man of pleasure, than from 
my own inclinations. I always naturally hated 
drinking; and yet I have often drunk, with disgust 
at the time, attended by great sickness the next day, 
only because I then considered drinking as a neces 
sary qualification for a fine gentleman and a man of 
pleasure. [March 27, 1747.] 

GAMBLING. The same as to gaming. I did not 
want money, and consequently had no occasion to 
play for it; but I thought play another necessary 
ingredient in the composition of a man of pleasure, 
and accordingly I plunged into it, without desire at 
first; sacrificed a thousand real pleasures to it; and 
made myself solidly uneasy by it for thirty the best 
years of my life. 

I was even absurd enough, for a little while, to 
swear, by way of adorning and completing the shin 
ing character which I affected ; but this folly I soon 
laid aside upon finding both the guilt and the inde 
cency of it. 

Thus seduced by fashion, and blindly adopting 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. Ill 

nominal pleasures, I lost real ones; and my fortune 
impaired, and my constitution shattered, are, I must 
confess, the just punishment of my errors. 

Take warning then by them; choose your pleas 
ures for yourself, and do not let them be imposed 
upon you. Follow nature, and not fashion; weigh 
the present enjoyment of your pleasures against the 
necessary consequences of them, and then let your 
own common-sense determine your choice. [Same 
date.] 

A LIFE OF REAL PLEASURE. Were I to begin 
the world again, with the experience which I now 
have of it, I would lead a life of real, not of imag 
inary pleasure. I would enjoy the pleasures of the 
table and of wine; but stop short of the pains insep 
arably annexed to an excess in either. I would not, 
at twenty years, be a preaching missionary of 
abstemiousness and sobriety; and I should let other 
people do as they would, without formally and sen- 
tentiously rebuking them for it; but I would be 
most firmly resolved not to destroy my own faculties 
and constitution, in complaisance to those who have 
no regard to their own. I would play to give me 
pleasure, but not to give me pain; that is, I would 
play for trifles, in mixed companies, to amuse 
myself, and conform to custom; but I would take 



112 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTERS. 

care not to venture for sums which, if I won, I 
should not be the better for; but which, if I lost, I 
should deeply regret. [Same date.] 

COARSE AND VULGAR PLEASURES. Does good 
company care to have a man reeling drunk among 
them ? Or to see another tearing his hair and blas 
pheming, for having lost at play more than he is 
able to pay? Or a whoremaster with half a nose, 
and crippled by coarse and infamous debauchery? 
No; those who practise, and much more those who 
brag of them, make no part of good company; and 
are most unwillingly, if ever, admitted into it. 

FASHIONABLE VICES. A real man of fashion 
and pleasure observes decency ; at least, neither bor 
rows nor affects vices ; and, if he unfortunately has 
any, he gratifies them with choice, delicacy, and 
secrecy. I have not mentioned the pleasures of the 
mind (which are the solid and permanent ones), 
because they do not come under the head of what 
people commonly call pleasures ; which they seem to 
confine to the senses. The pleasure of virtue, of 
charity, and of learning is true and lasting pleasure ; 
which I hope you will be well and long acquainted 
with. Adieu! [March, 1/47.] 

A FINE EDITION. If I am rightly informed, I 
am now writing; to a fine gentleman, in a scarlet coat 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 113 

laced with gold, a brocade waistcoat, and all other 
suitable ornaments. The natural partiality of every 
author for his own works, makes me very glad to 
hear that Mr. Harte has thought this last edition 
of mine worth so fine a binding; and, as he has 
bound it in red, and gilt it upon the back, I hope he 
will take care that it shall be lettered too. A show- 
ish binding attracts the eyes, and engages the atten 
tion of everybody; but with this difference, that 
women, and men who are like women, mind the 
binding more than the book, whereas men of sense 
and learning immediately examine the inside, and, 
if they find that it does not answer the finery on the 
outside, they throw it by with the greater indigna 
tion and contempt. I hope that when this edition of 
my works shall be opened and read, the best judges 
will find connection, consistency, solidity, and spirit 
in it. Mr. Harte may recensere and emendare as 
much as he pleases ; but it will be to little purpose if 
you do not co-operate with him. The work will be 
imperfect. [April j, 0. S., 1747.} 

Two KINDS OF SALT. Swiss salt is, I dare say, 
very good, yet I am apt to suspect it falls a little 
short of the true Attic salt, in which there was a 
peculiar quickness and delicacy. The same Attic 
salt seasoned all Greece; a great deal of it was 



114 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 

exported afterwards to Rome, where it was counter 
feited by a composition called urbanity, which, in 
some time, was brought to very near the perfection 
of the original Attic salt. The more you are pow 
dered with these two kinds of salt the better you 
will keep, and the more you will be relished. [April, 
1747-} 

ONE THING AT A TIME. If at a ball, a supper, 
or a party of pleasure, a man were to be solving, in 
his own mind, a problem in Euclid, he would be a 
very bad companion, and make a very poor figure 
in that company ; or if, in studying a problem in his 
closet, he were to think of a minuet, I am apt to 
believe that he would make a very poor mathemati 
cian. There is time enough for everything in the 
course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; 
but there is not time enough in the year, if you will 
do two things at a time. [Same date.~\ 

LETTER WRITING. The best models* that you 
can form yourself upon, are Cicero, Cardinal d'Os- 
sat, Madame Sevigne, and Comte Bussy Rabutin. 
Cicero's epistles to Atticus and to his familiar 
friends are the best examples that you can imitate, 

* Chesterfield had inclosed in a letter from Mr. Stanhope's 
mamma one from his own sister, thanking the boy for some 
Arquebusade water. His lordship sent a rough copy of a polite 
answer to this note. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 115 

in the friendly and the familiar style. The simplic 
ity and clearness of Cardinal d'Ossat's letters show 
how letters of business ought to be written; no 
affected turns, no attempt at wit, obscure or perplex 
his matter; which is always plainly and clearly 
stated, as business always should be. For gay and 
amusing letters, for enjouement and badinage, there 
are none that equal Comte Bussy's and Madame 
Sevigne's. They are so natural, they seem to be 
the extempore conversations of two people of wit, 
rather than letters; which are commonly studied, 
though they ought not to be so. I would advise you 
to let that book be one in your itinerant library. 
[My 20, 1747.] 

PERSONAL CLEANLINESS. As you must attend 
to your manners, so you must not neglect your per 
son ; but take care to be very clean, well dressed, and 
genteel ; to have no disagreeable attitudes, nor awk 
ward tricks ; which many people use themselves to, 
and then cannot leave them off. Do you take care 
to keep your teeth very clean, by washing them 
constantly every morning, and after every meal? 
This is very necessary, both to preserve your teeth 
a great while, and to save you a great deal of pain. 
Mine have plagued me long, and are now falling 
out, merely for want of care when I was of your 



116 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

age. Do you dress well, and not too well ? Do you 
consider your air and manner of presenting yourself 
enough, and not too much? neither negligent nor 
stiff. All these things deserve a degree of care, a sec 
ond-rate attention ; they give an additional lustre to 
real merit. My Lord Bacon says that a pleasing fig 
ure is a perpetual letter of recommendation. It is 
certainly an agreeable forerunner of merit and 
smooths the way for it. [July 30, 



TRUTH. Every man seeks for truth; but God 
only knows who has found it. It is, therefore, as 
unjust to persecute as it is absurd to ridicule people 
for those several opinions which they cannot help 
entertaining upon the conviction of their reason. 
[Same date.} 

LYING. I really know nothing more criminal, 
more mean, and more ridiculous tharf lying. It is 
the production either of malice, cowardice, or van 
ity; and generally misses of its aim in every one of 
these views; for lies are always detected, sooner or 
later. If I tell a malicious lie, in order to affect any 
man's fortune or character, I may indeed injure him 
for some time ; but I shall be sure to be the greatest 
sufferer myself at last; for as soon as ever I am 
detected (and detected I most certainly shall be), I 
am blasted for the infamous attempt ; and whatever 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 117 

is said afterward, to the disadvantage of that person, 
however true, passes for calumny. If I lie, or equiv 
ocate, for it is the same thing, in order to excuse 
myself for something that I have said or done, and 
to avoid the danger or the shame that I apprehend 
from it, I discover at once my fear, as well as my 
falsehood ; and only increase instead of avoiding the 
danger and the shame; I show myself to be the low 
est and the meanest of mankind, and am sure to be 
always treated as such. Fear, instead of avoiding, 
invites danger; for concealed cowards will insult 
known ones. If one has had the misfortune to be 
in the wrong, there is something noble in frankly; 
owning it ; it is the only way of atoning for it, and 
the only way of being forgiven. Equivocating, 
evading, shuffling, in order to remove a present 
danger or inconveniency, is something so mean, and 
betrays so much fear, that whoever practises them 
always deserves to be, and often will be, kicked. 
There is another sort of lies, inoffensive enough in 
themselves, but wonderfully ridiculous; I mean 
those lies which a mistaken vanity suggests, that 
defeat the very end for which they are calculated, 
and terminate in the humiliation and confusion of 
their author, who is sure to be detected. These are 
chiefly narrative and historical lies, all intended to 
do infinite honor to their author. He is always the 



IIS CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

Hero of his own romances; he has been in dangers 
from which nobody but himself ever escaped; he 
has seen with his own eyes whatever other people 
have heard or read of ; he has had more bonnes for 
tunes than ever he knew women; and has ridden 
more miles post, in one day, than ever courier went 
in two. He is soon discovered, and as soon becomes 
the object of universal contempt and ridicule. 
Remember, then, as long as you live, that nothing 
but strict truth can carry you through the world, 
with either your conscience or your honor 
unwounded. It is not only your duty, but your 
interest; as a proof of which you may always 
observe that the greatest fools are the greatest liars. 
For my own part, I judge of every man's truth by 
his degree of understanding. [Sept. 21, 1747.] 

\ 

PERCEPTION OF CHARACTER. Search, therefore, 
with the greatest care into the characters of all those 
whom you converse with ; endeavor to discover their 
predominant passions, their prevailing weaknesses, 
their vanities, their follies, and their humors; with 
all the right and wrong, wise and silly springs of 
human actions, which make such inconsistent and 
whimsical beings of us rational creatures. A mod 
erate share of penetration, with great attention, will 
infallibly make these necessary discoveries. This is 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 119 

the true knowledge of the world; and the world is 
a country which nobody ever yet knew by descrip 
tion; one must travel through it one's self to be 
acquainted with it. The scholar, who in the dust of 
his closet talks or writes of the world, knows no 
more of it than that orator did of war, who judi 
ciously endeavored to instruct Hannibal in it. 
Courts and camps are the only places to learn the 
world in. [Oct. 2, 



GOOD BREEDING. Civility, which is a disposition 
to accommodate and oblige others, is essentially the 
same in every country; but good breeding, as it is 
called, which is the manner of exerting that disposi 
tion, is different in almost every country, and merely 
local ; and every man of sense imitates and conforms 
to that local good breeding of the place which he 
is at. A conformity and flexibility of manners is 
necessary in the course of the world; that is, with 
regard to all things which are not wrong in them 
selves. The versatile ingenium is the most useful 
of all. It can turn itself instantly from one object to 
another, assuming the proper manner for each. It 
can be serious with the grave, cheerful with the gay, 
and trifling with the frivolous. Endeavor, by all 
means, to accommodate this talent, for it is a very 
great one. [Same date.] 



120 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

SELF-LOVE. Do not let your vanity and self-love 
make you suppose that people become your friends 
at first sight, or even upon a short acquaintance. 
Real friendship is a slow grower, and never thrives 
unless ingrafted upon a stock of known and recip 
rocal merit. There is another kind of nominal 
friendship, among young people, which is warm for 
the time, but, by good luck, of short duration. This 
friendship is hastily produced, by their being acci 
dentally thrown together, and pursuing the same 
course of riot and debauchery. A fine friendship, 
truly ! and well cemented by drunkenness and lewd- 
ness. It should rather be called a conspiracy against 
morals and good manners, and be punished as such 
by the civil magistrate. The next thing to the 
choice of your friends is the choice of your com 
pany. Endeavor, as much as you can, to keep com 
pany with people above you. There you rise as 
much as you sink with people below you; for, as I 
mentioned before, you are whatever the company 
you keep is. Do not mistake, when I say company 
above you, and think that I mean with regard to 
their birth; that is the least consideration; but I 
mean with regard to their merit, and the light in 
which the world considers them. [Oct. 9, 1747.] 

GOOD COMPANY. There are two sorts of good 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 121 

company; one, which is called the beau monde, and 
consists of those people who have the lead in courts, 
and in the gay part of life; the other consists of 
those who are distinguished by some peculiar merit, 
or who excel in some particular and valuable art or 
science. For my own part, I used to think myself 
in company as much above me, w r hen I was with 
Mr. Addison and Mr. Pope, as if I had been with 
all the princes in Europe. What I mean by low 
company, which should by all means be avoided, is 
the company of those, who, absolutely insignificant 
and contemptible in themselves, think they are hon 
ored by being in your company, and who flatter 
every vice and every folly you have, in order to 
engage you to converse with them. The pride of 
being the first of the company is but too common; 
but it is very silly, and very prejudicial. Nothing in 
the world lets down a character more than that 
wrong turn. 

You may possibly ask me, whether a man has it 
always in his power to get into the best company? 
and how? I say, yes, he has, by deserving it; pro 
vided he is but in circumstances which enable him 
to appear upon the footing of a gentleman. Merit 
and good breeding will make their way everywhere. 
Knowledge will introduce him, and good breeding 
will endear him to the best companies ; for, as I have 



122 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

often told you, politeness and good breeding are 
absolutely necessary to adorn any, or all other good 
qualities or talents. Without them, no knowledge, 
no perfection whatsoever, is seen in its best light. 
The scholar, without good breeding, is a pedant; 
the philosopher, a cynic; the soldier, a brute; and 
every man disagreeable. [Same date.] 

LOCAL PROPRIETY. Remember that there is a 
local propriety to be observed in all companies ; and 
that what is extremely proper in one company may 
be, and often is, highly improper in another. [Same 
date.] 

The jokes, the bon mots, the little adventures, 
which may do very well in one company, will seem 
flat and tedious, when related in another. The 
particular characters, the habits, the cant of one 
company may give merit to a word, or a gesture, 
which would have none at all if divested of those 
accidental circumstances. Here people very com 
monly err; and, fond of something that has enter 
tained them in one company, and in certain circum 
stances, repeat it with emphasis in another, where 
it is either insipid, or, it may be, offensive, by being 
ill-timed or misplaced. 

Women have, in general, but one object, which is 
their beauty; upon which, scarce any flattery is too 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 123 

gross for them to follow. Nature has hardly formed 
a woman ugly enough, to be insensible to flattery 
upon her person ; if her face is so shocking that she 
must, in some degree, be conscious of it, her figure 
and her air, she trusts, make ample amends for it. 
If her figure is deformed, her face, she thinks, coun 
terbalances it. If they are both bad, she comforts 
herself that she has graces; a certain manner; a je 
ne sgais quoi, still more engaging than beauty. This 
truth is evident, from the studied and elaborate 
dress of the ugliest women in the world. An 
undoubted, uncontested, conscious beauty is, of all 
women, the least sensible of flattery upon that head ; 
she knows it is her due, and is therefore obliged to 
nobody for giving it her. She must be flattered 
upon her understanding; which, though she may 
possibly not doubt of herself, yet she suspects that 
men may distrust. [Oct. 16, 1747.] 

There are a great many people, who think them 
selves employed all day, and who, if they were to 
cast up their accounts at night, would find that they 
had done just nothing. They have read two or 
three hours, mechanically, without attending to 
what they read, and, consequently, without either 
retaining it, or reasoning upon it. From thence 
they saunter into company, without taking any part 



124: CHESTEBFIELD'S LETTEES. 

in it, and without observing the characters of the 
persons, or the subjects of the conversation ; but are 
either thinking of some trifle, foreign to the present 
purpose, or, often, not thinking at all; which silly 
and idle suspension of thought they would dignify 
with the name of absence and distraction. They go 
afterwards, it may be, to the play, where they gape 
at the company and the lights ; but without minding 
the very thing they went to, the play. [Oct. 30, 

1747-'} 

ACTION ! ACTION ! Remember the hoc age; do 
what you are about, be that what it will ; it is either 
worth doing well, or not at all. Wherever you are, 
have (as the low, vulgar expression is) your ears 
and eyes about you. Listen to everything that is 
said, and see everything that is done. Observe the 
looks and countenances of those who speak, which is 
often a surer way of discovering the truth, than 
from what they say. [Same date.~\ 

VALUE OF TIME. I knew, once, a very covetous, 
sordid fellow, who used frequently to say: "Take 
care of the pence, for the pounds will take care of 
themselves." This was a just and sensible reflection 
in a miser. I recommend to you to take care of the 
minutes; for hours will take care of themselves. I 
am very sure that many people lose two or three 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 125 

hours every day, by not taking care of the minutes. 
Never think any portion of time, whatsoever, too 
short to be employed: something or other may 
always be done in it. [Nov. 6, 1747-] 

YOUNG PEOPLE. The young leading the young 
is like the blind leading the blind; "they will both 
fall into the ditch." The only sure guide is he who 
has often gone the road which you want to go. Let 
me be that guide ; who have gone all roads ; and who 
can consequently point out to you the best. If you 
ask me why I went any of the bad roads myself? I 
will answer you, very truly, that it was for want of 
a good guide ; ill example invited me one way, and 
a good guide was wanting, to show me a better. But 
if anybody, capable of advising me, had taken the 
same pains with me, which I have taken, and will 
continue to take with you, I should have avoided 
many follies and inconveniences, which undirected 
youth ran me into. My father was neither desirous 
nor able to advise me; which is what, I hope, you 
cannot say of yours. [Nov. 24, i747-~\ 

FROM HOME. I send you, by a person who sets 
out this day for Leipsic, a small packet from your 
mamma, containing some valuable things which you 
left behind ; to which I have added, by way of New 
Year's gift, a very pretty toothpick case; and, by 



126 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

the way, pray take great care of your teeth, and 
keep them extremely clean. I have likewise sent 
you the Greek roots, lately translated into English 
from the French of the Port Royal. Inform your 
self what the Port Royal is. To conclude with a 
quibble: I hope you will not only feed upon these 
Greek roots, but likewise digest them perfectly. 
Adieu. [Same date.] 

TIME. There is nothing which I more wish that 
you should know, and which fewer people do know, 
than the true use and value of time. It is in every 
body's mouth; but in few people's practice. Every 
fool, who slatterns away his whole time in nothings, 
utters, however, some trite commonplace sentence, 
of which there are millions, to prove, at once, the 
value and the fleetness of time. The sundials, like 
wise, all over Europe, have some ingenious inscrip 
tion to that effect; so that nobody squanders away 
their time without hearing and seeing, daily, how 
necessary it is to employ it well, and how irrecover 
able it is if lost. But all these admonitions are use 
less, where there is not a fund of good sense and 
reason to suggest them, rather than receive them. 
By the manner in which you now tell me that you 
employ your time, I flatter myself that you have that 
fund: that is the fund which will make you rich 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 137 

indeed. I do not, therefore, mean to give you a 
critical essay upon the use and abuse of time; I will 
only give you some hints, with regards to the use of 
one particular period of that long time which, I 
hope, you have before you; I mean, the next two 
years. Remember then, that whatever knowledge 
you do not solidly lay the foundation of before you 
are eighteen, you will never be master of while you 
breathe. [Dec. n, 1747.] 

KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge is a comfortable and 
necessary retreat and shelter for us in an advanced 
age; and if we do not plant it while young, it will 
give us no shade when we grow old. [Same date.] 

A CLASSICAL STUDENT. I knew a gentleman 
who was so good a manager of his time that he 
would not even lose that small portion of it which 
the calls of nature obliged him to pass in the neces 
sary house; but gradually went through all the 
Latin poets in those moments. He bought, for 
example, a common edition of Horace, of which he 
tore off gradually a couple of pages, read them first, 
and then sent them down a sacrifice to Cloacina! 
this was so much time fairly gained. [Same date.] , 

YOUNG STANHOPE. Hitherto I have discovered 
nothing wrong in your heart, or your head; on the 



128 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

contrary, I think I see sense in the one, and senti 
ments in the other. This persuasion is the only 
motive of my present affection; which will either 
increase or diminish, according to your merit or 
demerit. If you have the knowledge, the honor, and 
the probity which you may have, the marks and 
warmth of my affection shall amply reward them. ' 
[Dec. 18, 1747.1 

FASHIONABLE LADIES. The company of women 
of fashion will improve your manners, though not 
your understanding; and that complaisance and 
politeness, which are so useful in men's company, 
can only be acquired in women's. [Dec. 29, 1747.] 

TALENT AND BREEDING. Remember always, 
what I have told you a thousand times, that all the 
talents in the world will want all their lustre, and 
some part of their use too, if they are not adorned 
with that easy good breeding, that engaging manner, 
and those graces which seduce and prepossess peo 
ple in your favor at first sight. A proper care of 
your person is by no means to be neglected ; always 
extremely clean ; upon proper occasions, fine. Your 
carriage genteel, and your motions graceful. Take 
particular care of your manner and address, when 
you present yourself in company. Let them be 
respectful without meanness, easy without too much 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 129 

familiarity, genteel without affectation, and insinu 
ating without any seeming art or design. [Same 
date.] 

POLISH. Now, though I would not recommend 
to you to go into woman's company in search of 
solid knowledge or judgment, yet it has its use in 
other respects ; for it certainly polishes the manners, 
and gives une certaine tournure, which is very neces 
sary in the course of the world ; and which English 
men have generally less of than any people in the 
world. [Jan. 2, 1748.] 

A GOOD SUPPER. I cannot say that your suppers 
are luxurious, but you must own they are solid; and 
a quart of soup, and two pounds of potatoes, will 
enable you to pass the night without great impa 
tience for your breakfast next morning. One part 
of your supper (the potatoes) is the constant diet 
of my old friends and countrymen, the Irish, who 
are the healthiest and the strongest men that I know 
in Europe. [Same date.] 

A GREEK PROFESSOR. Since you do not care to 
be an assessor of the Imperial Chamber, and desire 
an establishment in England ; what do you think of 
being Greek professor at one of our universities ? It ~ 
is a very pretty sinecure, and requires very little 



130 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

knowledge (much less than, I hope, you have 
already) of that language. [Jan. 15, 1748.] 

A POLITICIAN. Mr. Harte tells me that you set 
up for a TtokiTinoZ avrfp-^ if so, I presume it is in the 
view of succeeding me in my office; which I will 
very willingly resign to you, whenever you shall 
call upon me for it. But, if you intend to be the 
nokfCiKoZ,, or the fizk-rjcpopoZ, avrjp, there are some 
trifling circumstances, upon which you should pre 
viously take your resolution. The first of which is, 
to be fit for it; and then, in Order to be so, make 
yourself master of ancient and modern history and 
languages. To know perfectly the constitution, and 
form of government of every nation; the growth 
and decline of ancient and modern empires; and to 
trace out and reflect upon the causes of both. To 
know th*e strength, the riches, and the commerce 
of every country. These little things, trifling as 
they may seem, are yet very necessary for a politi 
cian to know; and which therefore, I presume, you 
will condescend to apply yourself to. There are 
some additional qualifications necessary, in the 
practical part of business, which may deserve some 
consideration in your leisure moments; such as an 
absolute command of your temper, so as not to be 
provoked to passion, upon any account : patience, to 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 131 

hear frivolous, impertinent, and unreasonable appli 
cations: with address enough to refuse, without 
offending; or, by your manner of granting, to 
double the obligation : dexterity enough to conceal a 
truth, without telling a lie : sagacity enough to read 
other people's countenances: and serenity enough 
not to let them discover anything by yours ; a seem 
ing frankness, with a real reserve. These are the 
rudiments of a politician; the world must be your 
grammar. 

Three mails are now due from Holland, so that 
I have no letters from you to acknowledge. I 
therefore conclude with recommending myself to 
your favor and protection when you succeed. [Same 
date.] 

CONGEALED SPEECH. I find by Mr. Harte's last 
letter, that many of my letters to you and him have 
been frozen up in their way to Leipsic; the thaw 
has, I suppose, by this time set them at liberty to 
pursue their journey to you, and you will receive a 
glut of them at once. Hudibras alludes, in this verse, 
"Like words congeal'd in northern air," 

to a vulgar notion, that in Greenland words were 
frozen in their utterance, and that upon a thaw a 
very mixed conversation was heard in the air of all 
those words set at liberty. [Jan. 29, 1748.] 



132 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

POLITICAL IGNORANCE OF THE ENGLISH. We 
are in general in England ignorant of foreign affairs 
and of the interests, views, pretensions, and policy 
of other courts. That part of knowledge never 
enters into our thoughts, nor makes part of our edu 
cation ; for which reason we have fewer proper sub 
jects for foreign commissions than any other country 
in Europe; and, when foreign affairs happen to be 
debated in Parliament, it is incredible with how 
much ignorance. The harvest of foreign affairs 
being then so great, and the laborers so few, if you 
make yourself master of them, you will make your 
self necessary: first as a foreign, and then as a 
domestic minister for that department. [Feb. 9, 
1748.-] 

MY LORD'S DISLIKE OF VALETS. I would neither 
have your new man nor him whom you have already, 
put out of livery, which makes them both imperti 
nent and useless. I am sure that as soon as you 
shall have taken the other servant, your present man 
will press extremely to be out of livery, and valet 
de chambre, which is as much as to say, that he will 
curl your hair and shave you, but not condescend to 
do anything else. Therefore I advise you never to 
have a servant out of livery; and though you may 
not always think proper to carry the servant who 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 



133 



dresses you abroad in the rain and dirt behind a 
coach or before a chair, you keep it in your power 
to do so, if you please, by keeping him in livery. 
[Feb. 13, 1748.} 

LEARNED LEISURE. The first use that I made of 
my liberty was to come hither [Bath], where I 
arrived yesterday. My health, though not funda 
mentally bad, yet, for want of proper attention of 
late, wanted some repairs, which these waters never 
fail giving it. I shall drink them a month, and 
return to London, there to enjoy the comforts of 
social life, instead of groaning under the load of 
business. I have given the description of the life 
that I propose to lead for the future in this motto, 
which I have put up in the frize (sic) of my library 
in my new house: 

"Nunc veterum libris, nunc spmno, et inertibus horis 
Ducere sollicitae jucunda oblivia vitae." 

I must observe to you upon this occasion, that 
the uninterrupted satisfaction which I expect to find 
in that library will be chiefly owing to my having 
employed some part of my life well at your age. I 
wish I had employed it better, and my satisfaction 
would now be complete. [Feb. 16, 1748.] 

WASTE OF TIME. I, who have been behind the 
scenes, both of pleasure and business, and have seen 



134 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

all the springs and pulleys of those decorations 
which astonish and dazzle the audience, retire, not 
only without regret, but with contentment and satis 
faction. But what I do, and ever shall, regret, is 
the time which, while young, I lost in mere idleness, 
and in doing nothing. This is the common effect of 
the inconsideracy of youth, against which I beg you 
will be most carefully upon your guard. The value 
of moments, when cast up, is immense, if well 
employed; if thrown away, their loss is irrecover 
able. Every moment may be put to some use, and 
that with much more pleasure than if unemployed. 
Do not imagine that by the employment of time I 
mean an uninterrupted application to serious studies. 
No; pleasures are, at proper times, both as neces 
sary and as useful; they fashion and form you for 
the world; they teach you characters, and show 
you the human heart in its unguarded min 
utes. But then remember to make that use of them. 
I have known many people, from laziness of mind, 
go through both pleasure and business with equal 
inattention; neither enjoying the one, nor doing the 
other; thinking themselves men of pleasure because 
they were mingled with those who were, and men 
of business, because they had business to do, though 
they did not do it. Whatever you do, do it to the 
purpose ; do it thoroughly, not superficially. Appro- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 135 

fondissez; go to the bottom of things. Anything 
half done, or half known, is, in my mind, neither 
done nor known at all. Nay worse, for it often mis 
leads. There is hardly any place, or any company, 
where you may not gain knowledge, if you please; 
almost everybody knows some one thing, and is glad 
to talk upon that one thing. [Same date.] 

PROPER INQUISITIVENESS. Seek, and you will 
find, in this world as well as in the next. See every 
thing, inquire into everything; and you may excuse 
your curiosity and the questions you ask, which oth 
erwise might be thought impertinent by your man 
ner of asking them ; for most things depend a great 
deal upon the manner. As, for example, / am afraid 
that I am very troublesome with my questions; but 
nobody can inform me so well as you; or something 
of that kind. [Same date.] 

RELIGION TO BE RESPECTED. But when you fre 
quent places of public worship, as I would have you 
go to all the different ones you meet with, remember 
that, however erroneous, they are none of them 
objects of laughter and ridicule. Honest error is 
to be pitied, not ridiculed. The object of all the 
public worships in the world, is the same; it is that 
great eternal Being who created everything. The 
different manners of worship are by no means sub- 



136 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTERS. 

jects of ridicule. Each sect thinks its own the best ; 
and I know no infallible judge, in this world, to 
decide which is the best. [Same date.] 

USE A NOTE-BOOK. Make the same inquiries, 
wherever you are, concerning the revenues, the mili 
tary establishment, the trade, the commerce, and the 
police of every country. And you would do well to 
keep a blank paper book, which the Germans call 
an album; and there, instead of desiring, as they do, 
every fool they meet with to scribble something, 
write down all these things, as soon as they come to 
your knowledge from good authorities. [Same 
date.] 

LORD CHESTERFIELD'S CARE. I have now but 
one anxiety left, which is concerning you. I would 
have you be, what I know nobody is, perfect. As 
that is impossible, I would have you as near perfec 
tion as possible. I know nobody in a fairer way 
toward it than yourself, if you please. Never were 
so much pains taken for anybody's education as for 
yours; and never had anybody those opportunities 
of knowledge and improvement which you have 
had, and still have. I hope, I wish, I doubt, and I 
fear alternately. This only I am sure of, that you 
will prove either the greatest pain, or the greatest 
pleasure of, yours always truly. [Same date.] 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 137 

PEDANTS. Others, to show their learning, or 
often from the prejudices of a school education, 
where they hear of nothing else, are always talking 
of the ancients, as something more than men, and of 
the moderns as something less. They are never 
without a classic or two in their pockets ; they stick 
to the old good sense ; they read none of the modern 
trash; and will show you plainly that no improve 
ment has been made, in any one art or science, these 
last seventeen hundred years. I would by no means 
have you disown your acquaintance with the 
ancients ; but still less would I have you brag of an 
exclusive intimacy with them. Speak of the mod 
erns without contempt, and of the ancients without 
idolatry; judge them all by their merits, but not by 
their ages; and if you happen to have an Elzevir 
classic in your pocket, neither show it nor mention 
it. [Bath, Feb. 22, 1748.} 

BLINDNESS TO HEROISM. Take into your con 
sideration, if you please, cases seemingly analogous; 
but take them as helps only, not as guides. We are 
really so prejudiced by our educations that, as the 
ancients deified their heroes, we deify their madmen ; 
of which, with all due regard to antiquity, I take 
Leonidas and Curtius to have been two distin 
guished ones. And yet a solid pedant would, in a 



138 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

speech in Parliament, relative to a tax of twopence 
in the pound, upon some commodity or other, quote 
those two heroes as examples of what we ought to 
do and suffer for our country. [Same date.] 

INJUDICIOUS LEARNING. I have known these 
absurdities carried so far by people of injudicious 
learning, that I should not be surprised if some of 
them were to propose, while we were at war with 
the Gauls, that a number of geese should be kept in 
the Tower, upon account of the infinite advantage 
which Rome received, in a parallel case, from a 
certain number of geese in the Capitol. This way 
of reasoning and this way of speaking will always 
form a poor politician and a puerile declaimer. 
[Same date.] 

How "TO WEAR" LEARNING. Wear your learn 
ing like your watch, in a private pocket ; and do not 
pull it out and strike it, merely to show that you 
have one. If you are asked what o'clock it is, tell 
it, but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like 
the watchman. [Same date.] 

THE GRACES. A thousand little things, not sep 
arately to be defined, conspire to form these graces, 
this je ne sais quoi that always pleases. A pretty 
person, genteel motions, a proper degree of dress, 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 139 

an harmonious voice, something open and cheerful 
in the countenance, but without laughing ; a distinct 
and properly varied manner of speaking; all these 
things, and many others, are necessary ingredients 
in the composition of the pleasing je ne sais quoi, 
which everybody feels, though nobody can describe. 
Observe carefully, then, what displeases or pleases 
you, in others, and be persuaded, that, in general, 
the same things will please or displease others, in 
you. Having mentioned laughing, I must particu 
larly warn you against it ; and I could heartily wish 
that you may often be seen to smile, but never heard 
to laugh while you live. Frequent and loud laugh 
ter is the characteristic of folly and ill manners; it 
is the manner in which the mob express their silly 
joy at silly things ; and they call it being merry. In 
my mind, there is nothing so illiberal and so ill-bred 
as audible laughter. [March 9, 1748.'] 

THE FOLLY OF LAUGHTER. True wit or sense 
never yet made anybody laugh; they are above it; 
they please the mind and give a cheerfulness to the 
countenance. But it is low buffoonery or silly acci 
dents that always excite laughter; and that is what 
people of sense and breeding should show them 
selves above. A man's going to sit down, in the 
supposition that he has a chair behind him, and fall- 



140 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

ing down upon his breech for want of one, sets a 
whole company a-laughing, when all the wit in the 
world would not do it ; a plain proof, in my mind, 
how low and unbecoming a thing laughter is. Not 
to mention the disagreeable noise that it makes, and 
the shocking distortion of the face that it occasions. 
Laughter is easily restrained by a very little reflec 
tion ; but as it is generally connected with the idea of 
gaiety, people do not enough attend to its absurdity. 
I am neither of a melancholy nor a cynical disposi 
tion ; and am as willing and as apt to be pleased as 
anybody; but I am sure that, since I have had the 
full use of my reason, nobody has ever heard me 
laugh. [Same date.~\ 

THE MIND. It requires, also, a great deal of 
exercise, to bring it to a state of health and vigor. 
Observe the difference there is between minds culti 
vated and minds uncultivated, and you will, I am 
sure, think that you cannot take too much pains, nor 
employ too much of your time in the culture of your 
own. A drayman is probably born with as good 
organs as Milton, Locke, or Newton; but, by cul 
ture, they are much more above him than he is above 
his horse. Sometimes, indeed, extraordinary gen 
iuses have broken out by the force of nature, without 
the assistance of education ; but those instances are 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 141 

too rare for anybody to trust to; and even they 
would make a much greater figure if they had the 
advantage of education into the bargain. [April I, 
1748.} 

SEE ALL THINGS. At least, see everything that 
you can see, and know everything that you can know 
of it, by asking questions. See likewise everything 
at the fair, from operas and plays down to the 
Savoyards' rareeshows. Everything is worth seeing 
once ; and the more one sees, the less one either won 
ders or admires. [April 15, 



FALSEHOOD UNIVERSAL. Falsehood and dissim 
ulation are certainly to be found at courts ; but where 
are they not to be found? Cottages have them as 
well as courts ; only with worse manners. A couple 
of neighboring farmers, in a village, will contrive 
and practice as many tricks to overreach each other 
at the next market, or to supplant each other in the 
favor of the squire, as any two courtiers can do to 
supplant each other in the favor of their prince. 
Whatever poets may write, or fools believe, of rural 
innocence and truth, and of the perfidy of courts, 
this is most undoubtedly true that shepherds and 
ministers are both men; their nature and passions 
the same, the modes of them only different. [May 
10, 1748.1 



142 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

VULGAR SCOFFERS. Religion is one of their 
favorite topics ; it is all priestcraft ; and an invention 
contrived and carried on by priests, of all religions, 
for their own power and profit; from this absurd 
and false principle flow the commonplace, insipid 
jokes and insults upon the clergy. With these 
people, every priest, of every religion, is either a 
public or a concealed unbeliever, drunkard, and 
whoremaster; whereas I conceive that priests are 
extremely like other men, and neither the better nor 
the worse for wearing a gown or a surplice ; but, if 
they are different from other people, probably it is 
rather on the side of religion and morality, or at 
least decency, from their education and manner of 
life. [Same date."] 

WIT FALSE AND VULGAR. Another common 
topic for false wit and cold raillery is matrimony. 
Every man and his wife hate each other cordially, 
whatever they may pretend, in public, to the con 
trary. The husband certainly wishes his wife at the 
devil, and the wife certainly cuckolds her husband. 
Whereas I presume that men and their wives neither 
love nor hate each other the more upon account of 
the form of matrimony which has been said over 
them. The cohabitation, indeed, which is the conse 
quence of matrimony, makes them either love or 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 143 

hate more, accordingly as they respectively deserve 
it ; but that would be exactly the same, between any 
man and woman, who lived together without being 
married. [Same date.] 

SNUBBING A "Wrr." I always put these pert 
jackanapeses out of countenance, by looking 
extremely grave, when they expect that I should 
laugh at their pleasantries ; and by saying Well, and 
so; as if they had not done, and that the sting were 
still to come. This disconcerts them, as they have 
no resources in themselves, and have but one set 
of jokes to live upon. [Same date.] 

METHOD AND MANNER. The manner of doing 
things is often more important than the things 
themselves; and the very same thing may become 
either pleasing or offensive, by the manner of saying 
or doing it. Materiam supcrabat opus is often said 
of works of sculpture, where though the materials 
were valuable, as silver, gold, etc., the workmanship 
was stilt more so. [Same date.] 

CHESTERFIELD'S PROPOSED AIM. The end which 
I propose by your education, and which (if you 
please) I shall certainly attain, is to unite in you the 
knowledge of a scholar with the manners of a 
courtier; and to join, what is seldom joined in any 



144 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

of my countrymen, books and the world. They are 
commonly twenty years old before they have spoken 
to anybody above their schoolmaster and the fellows 
of their college. If they happen to have learning, it 
is only Greek and Latin; but not one word of mod 
ern history or modern languages. Thus prepared, 
they go abroad, as they call it; but, in truth, they 
stay at home all that while ; for being very awkward, 
confoundedly ashamed, and not speaking the lan 
guages, they go into no foreign company, at least 
none good ; but dine and sup with one another only, 
at the tavern. Such examples, I am sure, you will 
not imitate, but even carefully avoid. [Same date.] 

GOOD COMPANY. You will always take care to 
keep the best company in the place where you are, 
which is the only use of travelling; and (by the 
way) the pleasures of a gentleman are only to be 
found in the best company ; for that riot which low 
company, most falsely and impudently, call pleasure, 
is only the sensuality of a swine. [Same date.] 

MANLY DEFERENCE TO RANK. People of a low, 
obscure education cannot stand the rays of greatness; 
they are frightened out of their wits when kings 
and great men speak to them; they are awkward, 
ashamed, and do not know what nor how to answer, 
whereas: les honnetes gens are not dazzled by; 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 145 

superior rank; they know and pay all the respect 
that is due to it; but they do it without being dis 
concerted; and can converse just as easily with a 
king as with any one of his subjects. That is the 
great advantage of being introduced young into 
good company, and being used early to converse 
with one's superiors. How many men have I seen 
here, who, after having had the full benefit of an 
English education, first at school and then at the 
university, when they have been presented to the 
king, did not know whether they stood upon their 
heads or their heels. [May 17, 1748.} 

VULGARITY AND GOOD BREEDING AT COURT. If 
the king spoke to them, they were annihilated ; they 
trembled, endeavored to put their hands in their 
pockets and missed them, let their hats fall, and were 
ashamed to take them up; and, in short, put them 
selves in every attitude but the right, that is, the easy 
and natural one. The characteristic of a well-bred 
man is, to converse with his inferiors without inso 
lence, and with his superiors with respect and with 
ease. He talks to kings without concern; he trifles 
with women of the first condition, with familiarity, 
gaiety, but respect; and converses with his equals, 
whether he is acquainted with them or not, upon 
general, common topics, that are not, however, quite 



146 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

frivolous, without the least concern of mind or awk 
wardness of body; neither of which can appear to 
advantage, but when they are perfectly easy. [Same 
date.] 

FILIAL LOVE TO THE MOTHER. You owe her 
not only duty, but likewise great obligations, for her 
care and tenderness; and consequently cannot take 
too many opportunities of showing your gratitude.* 
[Same date.] 

CONSIDER YOUR OWN SITUATION. You have not 
the advantage of rank and fortune to bear you up ; 
I shall, very probably, be out of the world before you 
can properly be said to be in it. What then will 
you have to rely on but your own merit? That 
alone must raise you, and that alone will raise you, 
if you have but enough of it. I have often heard 
and read of oppressed and unrewarded merit, but I 
have oftener (I might say always) seen great merit 
make its way, and meet with its reward, to a cer 
tain degree at least, in spite of all difficulties. By 
merit I mean the moral virtues, knowledge, and 
manners; as to the moral virtues, 'I say nothing to 
you ; they speak best for themselves ; nor can I sus 
pect that they want any recommendation with you ; 

* Lord Chesterfield had been urging his son to send a Dres 
den tea-service to his mother, which he did. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 147 

I will, therefore, only assure you that, without them 
you will be most unhappy. [May 27, 1748.] 

DIPLOMATIC EDUCATION. You must absolutely 
speak all the modern languages, as purely and cor 
rectly as the natives of the respective countries ; for 
whoever does not speak a language perfectly and 
easily, will never appear to advantage in converr 
sation, nor treat with others in it upon equal terms. 
As for French, you have it very well already; and 
must necessarily, from the universal usage of that 
language, know it better and better every day; so 
that I am in no pain about that. German, I suppose, 
you know pretty well by this time, and will be quite 
master of it before you leave Leipsic ; at least I am 
sure you may. Italian and Spanish will come in 
their turns; and, indeed, they are both so easy, to 
one who knows Latin and French, that neither of 
them will cost you much time or trouble. [Same 
date.] 

ADVANTAGES OF MANNERS. Manners, though 
the last, and it may be the least ingredient of real 
merit, are, however, very far from being useless in 
its composition ; they adorn, and give an additional 
force and lustre to both virtue and knowledge. They 
prepare and smooth the way for the progress of 
both; and are, I fear, with the bulk of mankind, 



148 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

more engaging than either. Remember, then, the 
infinite advantage of manners; cultivate and im 
prove your own to the utmost ; good sense will sug 
gest the great rules to you, good company will do 
the rest. [Same date.] 

FOREIGN MINISTERS. You are the only one I 
ever knew, of this country, whose education was, 
from the beginning, calculated for the department 
of foreign affairs; in consequence of which, if you 
will invariably pursue, and diligently qualify your 
self for that object, you may make yourself abso 
lutely necessary to the government; and, after hav 
ing received orders as a minister abroad, send or 
ders, in your turn, as Secretary of State at home. 
Most of our ministers abroad have taken up that 
department occasionally, without having ever 
thought of foreign affairs before many of them, 
without speaking any one foreign language ; and all 
of them without the manners which are absolutely 
necessary towards being well received and making 
a figure at foreign courts. [Same date.] 

How TO BE CONSIDERABLE. Upon the whole, if 
you have a mind to be considerable, and to shine 
hereafter, you must labor hard now. No quickness 
of parts, no vivacity, will do long, or go far, without 
a solid fund of knowledge ; and that fund of knowl- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 149 

edge will amply repay all the pains that you can take 
in acquiring it. Reflect seriously, within yourself, 
upon all this, and ask yourself, whether I can have 
any view, but your interest, in all that I recommend 
to you. [Same date.] 

THE POPE'S POWER. Indulgences stood instead 
of armies, in the times of ignorance and bigotry; 
but now that mankind is better informed, the spir 
itual authority of the Pope is not only less regard 
ed, but even despised, by the Catholic princes them 
selves; and his holiness is actually little more than 
Bishop of Rome. [May 51, 1748.] 

PAPAL VIRTUES. Alexander VI., together with 
his natural son, Caesar Borgia, was famous for his 
wickedness, in which he, and his son too, surpassed 
all imagination. Their lives are well worth your 
reading. They were poisoned themselves by the 
poisoned wine which they had prepared for others; 
the father died of it, but Caesar recovered. 

Sixtus V. was the son of a swineherd, and raised 
himself to the popedom by his abilities; he was a 
great knave, but an able and a singular one. 

Here is history enough for to-day. [Same date.} 

AWKWARD SPEECH. Good God ! if this ungrace 
ful and disagreeable manner of speaking had, either 



150 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTERS. 

t>y your negligence or mine, become habitual to you, 
as in a couple of years more it would have been, 
what a figure would you have made in company, or 
in a public assembly? Who would have liked you 
in the one, or have attended to you in the other? 
Read what Cicero and Quintilian say of enunciation, 
and see what a stress they lay upon the gracefulness 
of it; nay, Cicero goes further, and even maintains 
that a good figure is necessary for an orator; and, 
particularly, that he must not be vastus; that is, 
overgrown and clumsy./ He shows by it that he 
knew mankind well, and knew the powers of an 
agreeable figure and a graceful manner. [June 21, 
1748.-] 

ENUNCIATION ELOQUENCE. Your figure is a 
good one ; you have no natural defect in the organs 
of speech ; your address may be engaging, and your 
manner of speaking graceful, if you will ; so that, if 
they are not so, neither I nor the world can ascribe 
it to any thing but your want of parts. What is the 
constant and just observation as to all actors upon 
the stage? Is it not, that those who have the best 
sense always speak the best, though they may hap 
pen not to have the best voices? They will speak 
plainly, distinctly, and with the proper emphasis, 
be their voices ever so bad. Had Roscius spoken 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 151 

quick, thick, and ungracefully, I will answer- for it 
that Cicero would not have thought him worth the 
oration which he made in his favor. Words were 
given us to communicate our ideas by; and there 
must be something inconceivably absurd in uttering 
them in such a manner as that either people cannot 
understand them, or will not desire to understand 
them. I tell you truly and sincerely that I shall 
judge of your parts by your speaking gracefully or 
ungracefully. If you have parts, you will never be 
at rest till you have brought yourself to a habit of 
speaking most gracefully; for I aver that it is in 
your power. [Same date.] 

ARTICULATION. You will take care to open your 
teeth when you speak ; to articulate every word dis 
tinctly; and to beg of Mr. Harte, Mr. Eliot, or 
whomever you speak to, to remind and stop you, if 
ever you fall into the rapid and unintelligible mut 
ter. You will even read aloud to yourself, and tune 
your utterance to your own ear; and read at first 
much slower than you need to do, in order to cor 
rect yourself -of that shameful trick of speaking 
faster than you ought. 

PROPER CARRIAGE. Next to graceful speak 
ing, a genteel carriage and a graceful manner of 
presenting yourself are extremely necessary, for 



153 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

they are extremely engaging; and carelessness in 
these points is much more unpardonable in a young 
fellow than affectation. It shows an offensive in 
difference about pleasing. I am told by one here, 
who has seen you lately, that you are awkward in 
your motions, and negligent of your person. I am 
sorry for both ; and so will you, when it will be too 
late, if you continue so some time longer. Awk 
wardness of carriage is very alienating, and a total 
negligence of dress and air is an impertinent insult 
upon custom and fashion. [Same date.] 

DESERT AND REWARD. Deserve a great deal, and 
you shall have a great deal; deserve little, and you 
shall have but a little; and be good for nothing at 
all, and I assure you, you shall have nothing at all. 

Solid knowledge, as I have often told you, is the 
first and great foundation of your future fortune 
and character; for I never mention to you the two 
much greater points of religion and morality, be 
cause I cannot possibly suspect you as to either of 
them. [July I, 1748.] 

No ONE CONTEMPTIBLE. Be convinced that 
there are no persons so insignificant and inconsid 
erable, but may some time or other, and in some 
thing or other, have it in their power to be of use to 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 153 

you ; which they certainly will not, if you have once 
shown them contempt. [Same date.] 

THE FOLLY OF CONTEMPT. Wrongs are often 
given, but contempt never is. Our pride remembers 
it forever. It implies a discovery of weaknesses, 
which we are much more careful to conceal than 
crimes. Many a man will confess his crimes to a 
common friend, but I never knew a man who would 
tell his silly weaknesses to his most intimate one. 
As many a friend will tell us our faults without re 
serve, who will not so much as hint at our follies;, 
that discovery is too mortifying to our self-love, 
either to tell another, or to be told of, one's self. 
You must, therefore, never expect to hear of your 
weaknesses, or your follies, from anybody but me; 
those I will take pains to discover, and whenever I 
do, I shall tell you of them. [Same date.] 

GOOD NATURE. Your school- fellow, Lord Pul- 
teney, set out last week for Holland, and will, I be 
lieve, be at Leipsic soon after this letter. You will 
take care to be extremely civil to him, and to do him 
any service that you can, while you stay there; let 
him know that I wrote you to do so. As being older, 
he should know more than you; in that case, take 
pains to get up to him ; but if he does not, take care 
not to let him feel his inferiority. He will find it out 



154 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

of himself, without your endeavors; and that can 
not be helped; but nothing is more insulting, more 
mortifying, and less forgiven, than avowedly to 
take pains to make a man feel a mortifying in 
feriority in knowledge, rank, fortune, etc. In the 
two last articles it is unjust, they not being in his 
power; and in the first it is both ill-bred and ill- 
natured. Good breeding and good nature do incline 
us rather to help and raise people up to ourselves, 
than to mortify and depress them, and, in truth, our 
own private interest concurs in it, as it is making 
ourselves so many friends, instead of so many ene 
mies. [July 6, 1748.'] 

LES ATTENTIONS. The constant practice of 
what the French call les attentions is a most neces 
sary ingredient in the art of pleasing; they flatter 
the self-love of those to whom they are shown; they 
engage, they captivate, more than things of much 
greater importance. The duties of social life every 
man is obliged to discharge ; but these attentions are 
voluntary acts, the free-will offerings of good breed 
ing and good nature ; they are received, remembered, 
and returned as such. Women, particularly, have 
a right to them ; and any omission in that respect is 
downright ill breeding. [Same date.] 

AN EDUCATIONAL TEST. Tell me what Greek 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 155 

and Latin books you can now read with ease. Can 
you open Demosthenes at a venture, and understand 
him? Can you get through an oration of Cicero, 
or a satire of Horace, without difficulty? What 
German book do you read to make yourself master 
of that language? And what French books do you 
read for your amusement ? Pray give me a particu 
lar and true account of all this ; for I am not indif 
ferent as to any one thing that relates to you. 
[Same date.} 

LAZY MINDS. There are two sorts of under 
standings; one of which hinders a man from ever 
being considerable, and the other commonly makes 
him ridiculous; I mean the lazy mind, and the 
trifling, frivolous mind. Yours, I hope, is neither. 
The lazy mind will not take the trouble of going to 
the bottom of anything ; but, discouraged by the dif 
ficulties (and everything worth knowing or having 
is attended with some), stops short, contents itself 
with easy and, consequently, superficial knowledge, 
and prefers a great degree of ignorance to a small 
degree of trouble. These people either think or rep 
resent most things as impossible; whereas few 
things are so to industry and activity. [July 26, 
1748.} 

RESOLUTION. But difficulties seem to them (lazy 



156 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

people) impossibilities, or at least they pretend to 
think them so, by way of excuse for their laziness. 
An hour's attention to the same object is too labori 
ous for them; they take everything in the light in 
which it first presents itself, never considering it in 
all its different views; and, in short, never think it 
thorough. The consequence of this is, that when 
they come to speak upon these subjects before peo 
ple who have considered them with attention, they 
only discover their own ignorance and laziness, and 
lay themselves open to answers that put them in con 
fusion. Do not then be discouraged by the first dif 
ficulties, but contra andentior ito; and resolve to go 
to the bottom of all those things which every gentle 
man ought to know well. [Same date.] 

CONVERSATION. When you are in company, 
bring the conversation to some useful subject, but 
a portee of that company. Points of history, mat 
ters of literature, the customs of particular coun 
tries, the several orders of knighthood, as Teutonic, 
Maltese, etc., are surely better subjects of conver 
sation than the weather, dress, or fiddle-faddle sto 
ries, that carry no information along with them. 
The characters of kings and great men are only to 
be learned in conversation ; for they are never fairly 
written during their lives. [Same date.] 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 157 

ALWAYS ASK. Never be ashamed nor afraid of 
asking questions; for if they lead to information, 
and if you accompany them with some excuse, you 
will never be reckoned an impertinent or rude ques 
tioner. All those things, in the common course of 
life, depend entirely upon the manner; and in that 
respect the vulgar saying is true, "That one man 
may better steal a horse, than another look over the 
hedge." [Same date.] 

Two HEADS. I am very glad that Mr. Lyttel- 
ton approves of my new house, and particularly of 
my Canonical* pillars. My bust of Cicero is a very 
fine one, and well preserved; it will have the best 
place in my library, unless, at your return, you bring 
me over as good a modern head of your own, which 
I should like still better. I can tell you that I shall 
examine it as attentively as ever antiquary did an 
old one. [Same date.~\ 

A PICTURE. Duval, the jeweler, is arrived, and 
was with me three or four days ago. You will eas 
ily imagine that I asked him a few questions con 
cerning you ; and I will give you the satisfaction of 
knowing that, upon the whole, I was very well 
pleased with the account he gave me. But, though 
he seemed to be much in your interest, yet he fairly 
* A pun ; the pillars from Canons in Middlesex. 



158 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

owned to me that your utterance was rapid, thick, 
and ungraceful. I can add nothing to what I have 
already said upon this subject ; but I can and do re 
peat the absolute necessity of speaking distinctly 
and gracefully.* [Aug. 2, 1748.] 

DIET. He tells me that you are pretty fat for one 
of your age; this you should attend to in a proper 
way ; for if, while very young, you should grow fat, 
it would be troublesome, unwholesome, and un 
graceful ; you should therefore, when you have time, 
take very strong exercise, and in your diet avoid 
fattening things. All malt liquors fatten, or at least 
bloat; and I hope you do not deal much in them. 
[Same date.] 

BE NATURAL. I have this moment received your 
letter of the 4th, N. S., and have only time to tell 
you, that I can by no means agree to your cutting 
off your hair. I am very sure that your headaches 
cannot proceed from thence. And as for the pim 
ples upon your head, they are only owing to the heat 
of the season; and consequently will not last long. 
But your own hair is, at your age, such an orna 
ment, and a wig, however well made, such a dis- 

* It is well, in the present state of society, to reflect upon 
the intimacy here shown between persons in trade and those 
in high life. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 159 

guise, that I will upon no account whatsoever have 
you cut off your hair. Nature did not give it you 
for nothing, still less to cause you the headache. 
Mr. Eliot's hair grew so ill and bushy, that he was 
in the right to cut it off ; but you have not the same 
reason. [Same date.] 

BUYING BOOKS. Mr. Harte wrote me word some 
time ago, and Mr. Eliot confirms it now, that you 
employ your pin-money in a very different manner 
from that in which pin-money* is commonly lav 
ished. Not in gewgaws and baubles, but in buying 
good and useful books. This is an excellent symp 
tom, and gives me very good hopes. Go on thus, 
my dear boy, but for these two next years, and I 
ask no more. You must then make such a figure, 
and such a fortune in the world, as I wish you, and 
as I have taken all these pains to enable you to do. 
After that time, I allow you to be as idle as ever you 
please; because I am sure that you will not then 
please to be so at all. The ignorant and the weak 
only are idle; but those, who have once acquired a 
good stock of knowledge, always desire to increase 
it. Knowledge is like power, in this respect, that 
those who have the most, are most desirous of hav 
ing more. It does not clog, by possession, but in- 

* A somewhat curious use of the phrase, but well explained 
by Johnson. 



160 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

creases desires ; which is the case of very few pleas 
ures. [Aug. 23, 1748.'} 

GRATITUDE TO A TUTOR. Upon receiving- this 
congratulatory letter, and reading your own praises, 
I am sure that it must naturally occur to you, how 
great a share of them you owe to Mr. Harte's care _ 
and attention; and, consequently, that your regard 
and affection for him must increase, if there be room 
for it, in proportion as you reap, which you do daily, 
the fruits of his labors. [Same date.] 

HISTORICAL FAITH. Take nothing for granted, 
upon the bare authority of the author; but weigh 
and consider, in your own mind, the probability of 
the facts, and the justness of the reflections. Con 
sult different authors upon the same facts, and form 
your opinion upon the greater or lesser degree of 
probability arising from the whole, which, in my 
mind, is the utmost stretch of historical faith, cer 
tainty (I fear) not being to be found. [Aug. 50, 
1748.] 

GOOD AND BAD MIXED. The best have something 
bad, and something little ; the worst have something 
good, and sometimes something great; for I do not 
believe what Valleius Paterculus (for the sake of 
saying a pretty thing) says of Scipio, "Qui nihil 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 161 

non laudandum aut fecit, aut dixit, aut sensit." 
[Same date.} 

THE RULING PASSION. Seek for their particular 
merit, their predominant passion, or their prevailing 
weakness, and you will then know what to bait your 
hook with, to catch them. Man is a composition of 
so many and such various ingredients, that it re 
quires both time and care to analyze him: for 
though we have, all, the same ingredients in our 
general composition, as reason, will, passions, and 
appetites, yet the different proportions and combina 
tions of them, in each individual, produce that in 
finite variety of characters, which, in some par 
ticular or other, distinguishes every individual from 
another. Reason ought to direct the whole, but sel 
dom does. [Sept. 5, 1748.] 

BRUYERE AND ROCHEFOUCAULT. I will recom 
mend to your attentive perusal, now you are going 
into the world, two books, which will let you as 
much into the characters of men as books can do. 
I mean "Les Reflexions Morales de Monsieur de la 
Rochefoucault," and "Les Caracteres de la Bru- 
yere" : but remember, at the same time, that I only 
recommend them to you as the best general maps, 
to assist you in your journey, and not as marking - 
out every particular turning and winding that you 



162 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTEES. 

will meet with. There, your own sagacity and ob 
servation must come to their aid. La Rochefou- 
cault is, I know, blamed, but I think without rea 
son, for deriving all our actions from the source of 
self-love. For my own part, I see a great deal of 
truth, and no harm at all, in that opinion. 

The reflection which is the most censured in Mon 
sieur de la Rochefoucault's book, as a very ill- 
natured one, is this: "On trouve dans le malheur 
de son meilleur ami, quelque chose qui ne deplait 
pas." And why not? Why may I not feel a very 
tender and real concern for the misfortune of my 
friend, and yet at the same time feel a pleasing con 
sciousness at having discharged my duty to him, by 
comforting and assisting him to the utmost of my 
power in that misfortune? Give me but virtuous 
actions, and I will not quibble and chicane about 
the motives. And I will give anybody their choice 
of these two truths, which amount to the same 
thing: He who loves himself best is the honestest 
man; or, The honestest man loves himself best. 

[Same date.] 

<i 

WOMAN. As women are a considerable, or at 
least a pretty numerous part of company, and as 
their suffrages go a great way toward establish 
ing a man's character, in the fashionable part of the 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 163 

world (which is of great importance to the fortune 
and figure he proposes to make in it), it is neces 
sary to please them. I will, therefore, upon this sub 
ject, let you into certain arcana that will be very use 
ful for you to know, but which you must, with the 
utmost care, conceal; and never seem to know. 
Women, then, are only children of a larger growth ; 
they have an entertaining tattle, and sometimes wit ; 
but for solid, reasoning good sense, I never in my 
life knew one that had it, or who reasoned or acted 
consequentially for four and twenty hours together. 
Some little passion or humor always breaks in upon 
their best resolutions. Their beauty neglected or 
controverted, their age increased, or their supposed 
understandings depreciated, instantly kindles their 
little passions, and overturns any system of conse 
quential conduct, that in their most reasonable mo 
ments they might have been capable of forming. 
A man of sense only trifles with them, plays with 
them, humors and flatters them, as he does with a 
sprightly, forward child; but he neither consults 
them about, nor trusts them with, serious matters; 
though he often makes them believe that he does 
both, which is the thing in the world that they are 
proud of, for they love mightily to be dabbling in 
business (which, by the way, they always spoil) ; 
and being justly distrustful, that men in general 



164 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEKS. 

look upon them in a trifling light, they almost adore 
that man who talks more seriously to them, and who 
seems to consult and trust them I say, who seems 
for weak men really do, but wise ones only seem 
to do it. No flattery is either too high or too low 
for them. They will greedily swallow the highest, 
and gracefully accept of the lowest; and you may 
safely flatter any woman, from her understanding 
down to the exquisite taste of her fan. Women, 
who are either indisputably beautiful or indisputably 
ugly, are best flattered upon the score of their un 
derstandings ; but those who are in a state of medi 
ocrity are best flattered upon their beauty, or at least 
their graces, for every woman who is not absolutely 
ugly thinks herself handsome, but not hearing often 
that she is so, is the more grateful and the more 
obliged to the few who tell her so ; whereas a decided 
and conscious beauty looks upon every tribute paid 
to her beauty only as her due, but wants to shine, 
and to be considered on the side of her understand 
ing ; and a woman, who is ugly enough to know that 
she is so, knows that she has nothing left for it but 
her understanding, which is consequently (and prob 
ably in more senses than one) her weak side. But 
these are secrets which you must keep inviolably, 
if you would not, like Orpheus, be torn to pieces by 
the whole sex. On the contrary, a man who thinks 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 165 

of living in the great world must be gallant, polite, 
and attentive to please the women. They have 
from the weakness of men, more or less influence 
in all courts; they absolutely stamp every man's 
character in the beau monde, and make it either cur 
rent, or cry it down, and stop it in payments. It 
is, therefore, absolutely necessary to manage, please, 
and flatter them; and never to discover the least 
marks of contempt, which is what they never for 
give; but in this they are not singular, for it is the 
same with men; who will much sooner forgive an 
injustice than an insult. [Same date.~\ 

CONTEMPT. Every man is not ambitious, or cov 
etous, or passionate; but every man has pride 
enough in his composition to feel and resent the 
least slight and contempt. Remember, therefore, 
most carefully to conceal your contempt, however 
just, wherever you would not make an implacable 
enemy. Men are much more unwilling to have their 
weaknesses and their imperfections known, than 
their crimes; and, if you hint to a man that you 
think him silly, ignorant or even ill bred or awk 
ward, he will hate you more and longer than if you 
tell him, plainly, that you think him a rogue. Never 
yield to that temptation, which, to most young men, 
is very strong, of exposing other people's weak- 



166 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTERS. 

nesses and infirmities, for the sake either of divert 
ing the company, or of showing your own superior 
ity. You may get the laugh on your side by it, 
for the present ; but you will make enemies by it for 
ever ; and even those who laugh with you then, will, 
upon reflection, fear, and consequently hate you; 
besides that, it is ill-natured; and a good heart de 
sires rather to conceal, than expose, other people's 
weaknesses or misfortunes. If you have wit, use it 
to please, and not to hurt; you may shine, like the 
sun in the temperate zones, without scorching. Here 
it is wished for ; under the line it is dreaded. [Same 
date.} 

CALIGULA. Another very just observation of the 
Cardinal's* is, that the things which happen in our 
own times, and which we see ourselves, do not sur 
prise us near so much as the things which we read 
of in times past, though not in the least more ex 
traordinary; and adds that he is persuaded that, 
when Caligula made his horse a consul, the people 
'of Rome at that time were not greatly surprised at 
it, having necessarily been in some degree prepared 
for it, by an insensible gradation of extravagancies 
from the same quarter. [Sept. 13, 1748.} 

ANTIQUITY is STRANGE. We read every day, 

* De Retz, from whose "Memoires" Lord Chesterfield quoted 
a sentence in the commencement of the letter. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 167 

with astonishment, things which we see every day 
without surprise. We wonder at the intrepidity of 
a Leonidas, a Codrus, and a Curtius; and are not 
the least surprised to hear of a sea captain who has 
blown up his ship, his crew, and himself, that they 
might not fall into the hands of the enemies of his 
country. I cannot help reading of Porsenna and 
Regulus with surprise and reverence; and yet I re 
member that I saw, without either, the execution 
of Shepherd, a boy of eighteen years old, who in 
tended to shoot the late king, and who would have 
been pardoned if he would have expressed the least 
sorrow for his intended crime; but, on the contrary, 
he declared, that, if he was pardoned, he would at 
tempt it again; that he thought it a duty which he 
owed his country; and that he died with pleasure 
for having endeavored to perform it. Reason equals 
Shepherd to Regulus; but prejudice, and the re 
cency of the fact, make Shepherd a common male 
factor, and Regulus a hero. [Same date."] 

SECRETS. The last observation that I shall now 
mention of the Cardinal's is, "That a secret is more 
easily kept by a good many people than one com 
monly imagines." By this he means a secret of im 
portance among people interested in the keeping of 
it. And it is certain that people of business know 



168 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

the importance of secrecy, and will observe it where 
they are concerned in the event. To go and tell any 
friend, wife, or mistress, any secret with which they 
have nothing to do, is discovering to them such an 
unretentive weakness as must convince them that 
you will tell it to twenty others, and consequently 
that they may reveal it without the risk of being 
discovered. But a secret properly communicated 
only to those who are to be concerned in the thing in 
question, will probably be kept by them, though 
they should be a good many. Little secrets are com 
monly told again, but great ones generally kept. 
Adieu. [Same date.] 

TRIFLES. How trifling soever these things may 
seem, or really be, in themselves, they are no longer 
so, when above half the world thinks them other 
wise. And, as I would have you omnibus ornatum 
excellere rebus, I think nothing above or below 
my pointing out to you, or your excelling in. You 
have the means of doing it, and time before you to 
make use of them. Take my word for it, I ask noth 
ing now but what you will, twenty years hence, most 
heartily wish that you had done. [Sept. 20, 1748.} 

THE PEDANT AND THE SCHOLAR. A gentleman 
has, probably, read no other Latin than that of the 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 169 

Augustan age; and therefore can write no other; 
whereas the pedant has read much more bad Latin 
than good; and consequently writes so too. He 
looks upon the best classical books as books for 
schoolboys, and consequently below him, but pores 
over fragments of obscure authors, treasures up the 
obsolete words which he meets with there, and uses 
them upon all occasions, to show his reading at the 
expense of his judgment. Plautus is his favorite 
author, not for the sake of the wit and the vis comic a 
of his comedies ; but upon account of the many obso 
lete words and the cant of low characters, which 
are to be met with nowhere else. He will rather use 
olli than illi, optume than optime, and any bad word, 
rather than any good one, provided he can but prove 
that, strictly speaking, it is Latin; that is, that it 
was written by a Roman. [Sept. 27, 1748.] 

A DETESTABLE DOCTRINE. I must now say 
something as to the matter of the lecture ; in which 
I confess there is one doctrine laid down that sur 
prises me; it is this: "Quum vero hostis sit lenta 
citave morte omnia dira nobis minitans quocunque 
bellantibus negotium est, parum sane interfuerit quo 
modo eum obruere et interficere satagamus si fero- 
ciam exuere cunctetur. Ergo venono quoque uti 
fas est," etc., whereas I cannot conceive that the use 



170 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEBS. 

of poison can, upon any account, come within the 
lawful means of self-defence. Force may, without 
doubt, be justly repelled by force; but not by treach 
ery and fraud; for I do not call the stratagems of 
war, such as ambuscades, masked batteries, false at 
tacks, etc., frauds or treachery; they are mutually 
to be expected and guarded against; but poisoned 
arrows, poisoned waters, or poison administered to 
your enemy (which can only be done by treachery), 
I have always heard, read, and thought to be un 
lawful and infamous means of defence, be your dan 
ger ever so great ; but, si ferociam exuere cunctetur; 
must I rather die than poison this enemy? Yes, 
certainly, much rather die than do a base or crim 
inal action ; nor can I be sure, beforehand, that this 
enemy may not in the last moment ferociam exuere. 
But the public lawyers now seem to me rather to 
warp the law, in order to authorize than to check 
those unlawful proceedings of princes and states; 
which, by being become common, appear less crim 
inal; though custom can never alter the nature of 
good and ill. 

Pray let no quibbles of lawyers, no refinements 
of casuists break into the plain notions of right and 
wrong which every man's right reason and plain 
common sense suggest to him. To do as you would 
be done by is the plain, sure, and undisputed rule of 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 



morality and justice. Stick to that; and be con 
vinced that whatever breaks into it, in any degree, 
however speciously it may be turned, and however 
puzzling it may be to answer it, is, notwithstanding, 
false in itself, unjust, and criminal. I do not know 
a crime in the world which is not, by the casuists 
among the Jesuits (especially the twenty- four col 
lected, I think, by Escobar) allowed in some, or 
many cases, not to be criminal. The principles first 
laid down by them are often specious, the reason 
ings plausible; but the conclusion always a lie; for 
it is contrary to that evident and undeniable rule of 
justice which I have mentioned above, of not doing 
to any one what you would not have him do to you. 
But, however, these refined pieces of casuistry and 
sophistry being very convenient and welcome to 
.people's passions and appetites, they gladly accept 
the indulgence without desiring to detect the fallacy 
of the reasoning; and indeed many, I might say 
most people, are not able to do it ; which makes the 
publication of such quibblings and refinements the 
more pernicious. I am no skilful casuist nor subtle 
disputant; and yet I would undertake to justify and 
qualify the profession of a highwayman step by 
step, and so plausibly as to make many ignorant 
people embrace the profession as an innocent, if not 
even a laudable one; and to puzzle people of some 



172 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEKS. 

degree of knowledge to answer me point by point. 
I have seen a book entitled "Quidlibet ex Quolibet," 
or the art of making any thing out of any thing; 
which is not so difficult as it would seem, if once 
one quits certain plain truths, obvious in growth to 
every understanding, in order to run after the in 
genious refinements of warm imaginations and 
speculative reasonings. Doctor Berkeley, Bishop of 
Cloyne, a very worthy, ingenious, and learned man, 
has written a book to prove that there is no such 
thing as matter, and that nothing exists but in idea ; 
that you and I only fancy ourselves eating, drink 
ing, and sleeping ; you at Leipsic, and I at London ; 
that we think we have flesh and blood, legs, arms, 
etc., but that we are only spirit. His arguments 
are, strictly speaking, unanswerable; but yet I am 
so far from being convinced by them that I am de 
termined to go on to eat and drink, and walk and 
ride, in order to keep that matter, which I so mis 
takenly imagine my body at present to consist of, 
in as good plight as possible. Common sense 
(which, in truth, is very uncommon) is the best 
sense I know of ; abide by it ; it will counsel you best. 
Read and hear for your amusement, ingenious sys 
tems, nice questions, subtlely agitated, with all the 
refinements that warm imaginations suggest; but 
consider them only as exercitations for the mind, 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 173 

and return always to settle with common sense. 
[Same date.] 

LETTERS. Your letters, except when upon a 
given subject, are exceedingly laconic, and neither 
answer my desires, nor the purpose of letters; 
which should be familiar conversations, between ab 
sent friends. As I desire to live with you upon the 
footing of an intimate friend, and not of a parent, 
I could wish that your letters gave me more par 
ticular accounts of yourself, and of your lesser trans 
actions. When you write to me, suppose yourself 
conversing freely with me, by the fireside. In that 
case, you would naturally mention the incidents of 
the day ; as where you had been, whom you had seen, 
what you thought of them, etc. Do this in your let 
ters; acquaint me sometimes with your studies, 
sometimes with your diversions ; tell me of any new 
persons and characters that you meet with in com 
pany, and add your own observations upon them; 
in short, let me see more of you, in your letters. 
[Same date.] 

GOOD COMPANY. To keep good company, espe 
cially at your first setting out, is the way to receive 
good impressions. If you ask me what I mean by 
good company, I will confess to you that it is pretty 



174 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

difficult to define; but I will endeavor to make you 
understand it as well as I can. 

Good company is not what respective sets of com 
pany are pleased either to call or think themselves ; 
but it is that company which all the people of the 
place call, and acknowledge to be good company, 
notwithstanding some objections which they may 
form to some of the individuals who compose it. It 
consists chiefly (but by no means without excep 
tion) of people of considerable birth, rank, and char 
acter : for people of neither birth nor rank are fre 
quently and very justly admitted into it, if distin 
guished by any peculiar merit, or eminency in any 
liberal art or science. Nay, so motley a thing is 
good company, that many people without birth, rank, 
or merit, intrude into it by their own forwardness ; 
and others slide into it by the protection of some 
considerable person; and some even of indifferent 
characters and morals make part of it. But, in the 
main, the good part preponderates, and people of 
infamous and blasted characters are never admitted. 
In this fashionable good company the best manners 
and the best language of the place are most unques 
tionably to be learnt ; for they establish and give the 
tone to both, which are therefore called the language 
and manners of good company; there being no legal 
tribunal to ascertain either. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 175 

A company consisting wholly of people of the first 
quality cannot, for that reason, be called good com 
pany, in the common acceptation of the phrase, 
unless they are, into the bargain, the fashionable and 
accredited company of the place; for people of the 
very first quality can be as silly, as ill bred, and as 
worthless, as people of the meanest degree. On the 
other hand, a company consisting entirely of people 
of very low condition, whatever their merits or parts 
may be, can never be called good company ; and con 
sequently, should not be much frequented, though 
by no means despised. 

A company wholly composed of men of learning, 
though greatly to be valued and respected, is not 
meant by the words good company: they cannot 
have the easy manners and tournure of the world, 
as they do not live in it. If you can bear your part 
well in such a company, it is extremely right to be in 
it sometimes, and you will be but more esteemed, in 
other companies, for having a place in that. But 
then do not let it engross you; for if you do, you 
will be only considered as one of the litterati by pro 
fession ; which is not the way either to shine or rise 
in the world. 

The company of professed wits and poets is 
extremely inviting to most young men ; who, if they 
have wit themselves, are pleased with it, and if they 



176 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

have none, are sillily proud of being one of it : but 
it should be frequented with moderation and judg 
ment, and you should by no means give yourself up 
to it. A wit is a very unpopular denomination, as 
it carries terror along with it ; and people in general 
are as much afraid of a live wit, in company, as a 
woman is of a gun, which she thinks may go off of 
itself, and do her a mischief. Their acquaintance 
is, however, worth seeking, and their company worth 
frequenting; but not exclusively of others, nor to 
such a degree as to be considered only as one of that 
particular set. 

But the company, which of all others you should 
most carefully avoid, is that low company, which 
in every sense of the word, is low indeed; low in 
rank, low in parts, low in manners, and low in merit 
[Oct. 12, 1748.] 

ASSOCIATES. There is good sense in the Spanish 
saying, "Tell me whom you live with, and I will tell 
you who you are." Make it therefore your business, 
wherever you are, to get into that company which 
everybody of the place allows to be the best com 
pany, next to their own : which is the best definition 
that I can give you of good company. But here, 
too, one caution is very necessary; for want of 
which many young men have been ruined, even in 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 177 

good company. Good company (as I have before 
observed) is composed of a great variety of fash 
ionable people, whose characters and morals are 
very different, though their manners are pretty much 
the same. When a young man, now in the world, 
first gets into that company, he very rightly deter 
mines to conform to and imitate it. But then he too 
often, and fatally, mistakes the objects of his imita 
tion. He has often heard that absurd term of genteel 
and fashionable vices. [Same date.] 

BEHAVIOR. Imitate, then, with discernment and 
judgment, the real perfections of the good company 
into which you may get ; copy their politeness, their 
carriage, their address, and the easy and well-bred 
turn of their conversation; but remember that, let 
them shine ever so bright, their vices, if they have 
any, are so many spots which you would no more 
imitate than you would make an artificial wart upon 
your face, because some very handsome man had the 
misfortune to have a natural one upon his; but, on 
the contrary, think how much handsomer he would 
have been without it. [Same date.] 

TALKING. Talk often, but never long; in that 
case, if you do not please, at least you are sure not 
to tire your hearers. Pay your own reckoning, but 



178 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. . 

do not treat the whole company; this being one of 
the very few cases in which people do not care to be 
treated, every one being fully convinced that he has 
wherewithal to pay. 

Tell stories seldom, and absolutely never but 
where they are very apt and very short. Omit every 
circumstance that is not material, and beware of 
digressions. To have frequent recourse to narrative 
betrays great want of imagination. 

Never hold anybody by the button or the hand, 
in order to be heard out ; for if people are not willing 
to hear you, you had much better hold your tongue 
than them. 

Most long talkers single out some one unfortu 
nate man in company (commonly him whom they 
observe to be the most silent, or their next neighbor) 
to whisper, or at least, in a half voice, to convey a 
continuity of words to. This is excessively ill bred, 
and, in some degree, a fraud; conversation stock 
being a joint and common property. But, on the 
other hand, if one of these unmerciful talkers lays 
hold of you, hear him with patience (and at least 
seeming attention) if he is worth obliging; for 
nothing will oblige him more than a patient hearing, 
as nothing would hurt him more than either to leave 
him in the midst of his discourse or to discover your 
impatience under your affliction. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 179 

Take rather than give the tone of the company 
you are in. If you have parts you will show them 
more or less upon every subject; and if you have 
not, you had better talk sillily upon a subject of 
other people's than of your own choosing. 

Avoid as much as you can in mixed companies, 
argumentative, polemical conversations; which, 
though they should not, yet certainly do, indispose, 
for a time, the contending parties to wards each other ; 
and if the controversy grows warm and noisy, 
endeavor to put an end to it by some genteel levity 
or joke. I quieted such a conversation hubbub once 
by presenting to them that, though I was persuaded 
none there present would repeat out of company 
what passed in it, yet I could not answer for the 
discretion of the passengers in the street, who must 
necessarily hear all that was said. 

Above all things, and upon all occasions, avoid 
speaking of yourself if it be possible. Such is the 
natural pride and vanity of our hearts that it per 
petually breaks out, even in people of the best parts, 
in all the various modes and figures of the egotism. 
[Oct. ip, 



SILLY VANITY. This principle of vanity and 
pride is so strong in human nature that it descends 
even to the lowest objects ; and one often sees people 



180 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTEES. 

angling for praise, where, admitting all they say to 
be true (which, by the way, it seldom is), no just 
praise is to be caught. One man affirms that he has 
rode post a hundred miles in six hours ; probably it 
is a lie; but supposing it to be true, what then? 
Why, he is a very good postboy, that is all. Another 
asserts, and probably not without oaths, that he has 
drunk six or eight bottles of wine at a sitting; out 
of charity I will believe him a liar ; for if I do not, I 
must think him a beast. [Same date.] 

YOURSELF. The only sure way of avoiding these 
evils is never to speak of yourself at all. But when 
historically you are obliged to mention yourself, take 
care not to drop one single word that can directly or 
indirectly be construed as fishing for applause. Be 
your character what it will, it will be known; and 
nobody will take it upon your own word. Never 
imagine that anything you can say yourself will 
varnish your defects or add lustre to your perfec 
tions ; but on the contrary, it may, and nine times in 
ten will, make the former more glaring and the 
latter obscure. If you are silent upon your own 
subject, neither envy, indignation, nor ridicule will 
obstruct or allay the applause which you may really 
deserve ; but if you publish your own panegyric upon 
any occasion or in any shape whatsoever, and how- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 181 

ever artfully dressed or disguised, they will all con 
spire against you, and you will be disappointed of 
the very end you aim at. [Same date.] 

SCANDAL MIMICRY SWEARING LAUGHTER. 
Neither retail nor receive scandal willingly; for 
though the defamation of others may for the present 
gratify the malignity of the pride of our hearts, 
cool reflection will draw very disadvantageous con 
clusions from such a disposition ; and in the case of 
scandal, as in that of robbery, the receiver is always 
thought as bad as the thief. 

Mimicry, which is the common and favorite 
amusement of little, low minds, is in the utmost 
contempt with great ones. It is the lowest and most 
illiberal of all buffoonery. Pray neither practise it 
yourself, nor applaud it in others. Besides that, the 
person mimicked is insulted; and as I have often 
observed to you before, an insult is never forgiven. 

I need not (I believe) advise you to adapt your 
conversation to the people you are conversing with ; 
for I suppose you would not, without this caution, 
have talked upon the same subject and in the same 
manner to a minister of state, a bishop, a philoso 
pher, a captain, and a woman. A man of the world 
must, like the chameleon (sic), be able to take every 
different hue; which is by no means a criminal or 



CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTERS. 



abject, but a necessary complaisance, for it relates 
only to manners, and not to morals. 

One word only as to swearing; and that I hope 
and believe is more than is necessary. You may 
sometimes hear some people in good company inter 
lard their discourse with oaths by way of embellish 
ment, as they think ; but you must observe, too, that 
those who do so are never those who contribute in 
any degree to give that company the denomination 
of good company. They are always subalterns or 
people of low education; for that practice, besides 
that it has no one temptation to plead, is as silly and 
as illiberal as it is wicked. 

Loud laughter is the mirth of the mob, who are 
only pleased with silly things ; for true wit or good 
sense never excited a laugh since the creation of the 
world. A man of parts and fashion is therefore only 
seen to smile, but never heard to laugh. 

But to conclude this long letter; all the above- 
mentioned rules, however carefully you may observe 
them, will lose half their effect if unaccompanied 
by the Graces. Whatever you say, if you say it 
with a supercilious, cynical face, or an embarrassed 
countenance, or a silly, disconcerted grin, will be 
ill received. If, into the bargain, you mutter it, or 
utter it indistinctly and ungracefully, it will be still 
worse received. If your air and address are vulgar, 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 183 

awkward, and gauche, you may be esteemed indeed, 
if you have great intrinsic merit; but you will never 
please, and, without pleasing, you will rise but 
heavily. Venus, among the ancients, was synony 
mous with the Graces, who were always supposed to 
accompany her ; and Horace tells us that even Youth 
and Mercury, the god of arts and eloquence, would 
not do without her. 

" Parum comis sine te Juventas, 
Mercuriusque." 

They are not inexorable ladies, and may be had 
if properly and diligently pursued. Adieu. [Same 
date.] 

THE DUTY OF A MENTOR. I have long since 
done mentioning your great religious and moral 
duties ; because I could not make your understanding 
so bad a compliment, as to suppose that you wanted, 
or could receive, any new instructions upon those 
two important points. Mr. Harte, I am sure, has not 
neglected them; besides, they are so obvious to 
common sense and reason, that commentators may 
(as they often do) perplex, but cannot make them 
clearer. My province, therefore, is to supply, by my 
experience, your, hitherto, inevitable inexperience 
in the ways of the world. People at your age are 
in a state of natural ebriety ; and want rails, and 



184 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

gardefous, wherever they go, to hinder them from 
breaking their necks. This drunkenness of youth is 
not only tolerated, but even pleases, if kept within 
certain bounds of discretion and decency. Those 
bounds are the point which it is difficult for the 
drunken man himself to find out ; and there it is that 
the experience of a friend may not only serve but 
save him. 

Carry with you, and welcome, into company, all 
the gaiety and spirits, but as little of the giddiness, 
of youth as you can. The former will charm; but 
the latter will often, though innocently, implacably 
offend. Inform yourself of the characters and situa 
tions of the company, before you give way to what 
your imagination may prompt you to say. There 
are, in all companies, more wrong heads than right 
ones, and many more who deserve than who like 
censure. [Oct. 29, 1748.] 

EGOTISM. Cautiously avoid talking of either 
your own or other people's domestic affairs.* Yours 
are nothing to them, but tedious ; theirs are nothing 
to you. The subject is a tender one; and it is odds 
but you touch somebody or other's sore place; for, 
in this case, there is no trusting to specious appear 
ances; which may be, and often are, so contrary to 

*The author, as he says, often repeats himself; see ante, 
p. 180. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 185 

the real situation of things, between men and their 
wives, parents and their children, seeming friends, 
etc., that, with the best intentions in the world, one 
often blunders disagreeably. 

Remember, that the wit, humor, and jokes of 
most mixed companies are local. They thrive in 
that particular soil, but will not often bear trans 
planting. Every company is differently circum 
stanced, has its particular cant, and jargon; which 
may give occasion to wit and mirth, within that 
circle, but would seem flat and insipid in any other, 
and therefore will not bear repeating. [Same date.] 

GOOD FELLOWS. You will find, in most good 
company, some people who only keep their place 
there by a contemptible title enough ; these are what 
we call very good-natured fellows, and the French 
bons diables. The truth is, they are people without 
any parts or fancy, and who, having no will of their 
own, readily assent to, concur in, and applaud, what 
ever is said or done in the company; and adopt, 
with the same alacrity, the most virtuous or the most 
criminal, the wisest or the silliest scheme, that hap 
pens to be entertained by the majority of the com 
pany. This foolish, and often criminal, complais 
ance flows from a foolish cause; the want of any 
other merit. I hope you will hold your place in 



186 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

company by a nobler tenure, and that you will hold 
it (you can bear a quibble, I believe, yet) in capite. 
Have a will and an opinion of your own, and adhere 
to them steadily; but then do it with good humor, 
good breeding, and (if you have it) with urbanity; 
for you have not yet beard enough either to preach 
or censure. [Same date.] 

THE FINE GENTLEMAN. What the French justly 
call les manieres nobles, are only to be acquired in 
the very best companies. They are the distinguish 
ing characteristics of men of fashion : people of low 
education never wear them so close, but that some 
part or other of the original vulgarism appears. Les 
manieres nobles equally forbid insolent contempt, or 
low envy and jealousy. Low people, in good cir 
cumstances, fine clothes, and equipage, will inso 
lently show contempt for all those who cannot afford 
as fine clothes, as good an equipage, and who have 
not (as they term it) as much money in their 
pockets : on the other hand, they are gnawed with 
envy, and cannot help discovering it, of those who 
surpass them in any of these articles ; which are far 
from being sure criterions of merit. They are, like 
wise, jealous of being slighted; and, consequently, 
suspicious and captious: they are eager and hot 
about trifles; because trifles were, at first, their 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 187 

affairs of consequence. Les manieres nobles imply 
exactly the reverse of all this. Study them early; 
you cannot make them too habitual and familiar to 
you. [Same date.] 

I like the description of your pic-nic '* where, I 
take it for granted, that your cards are only to break 
the formality of a circle, and your symposium 
intended more to promote conversation than drink 
ing. Such an amicable collision, as Lord Shaftes- 
bury very prettily calls it, rubs off and smooths those 
rough corners, which mere nature has given to the 
smoothest of us. I hope some part, at least, of the 
conversation is in German. [Same date.] 

THE GRACES. I send you Mr. Locke's book upon 
education, in which you will find the stress he lays 
upon the graces, which he calls (and very truly) 
good breeding. I have marked all the parts of that 
book which are worth your attention; for as he 
begins with the child, almost from its birth, the 
parts relative to its infancy would be useless to you. 
Germany is, still less than England, the seat of the 
graces ; however you had as good not to say so while 
you are there. [Nov. 18, 1748.} 

THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH. Of all the men 

* Pic-nic. Johnson does not mention this word, nor do his 
predecessors, Ashe and Bailey. Richardson does not give it 
even in his supplement. Worcester cites Widegren, 1788 ; this 
then is the earliest use of the word by an author of weight. 



188 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

that ever I knew in my life (and I knew him 
extremely well), the late Duke of Marlborough pos 
sessed the graces in the highest degree, not to say 
engrossed them; and indeed he got the most by 
them; for I will venture (contrary to the custom of 
profound historians, who always assign deep causes 
for great events) to ascribe the better half of the 
Duke of Marlborough's greatness and riches to 
those graces. He was eminently illiterate; wrote 
bad English, and spelled it still worse. He had no 
share of what is commonly called parts; that is, he 
had no brightness, nothing shining in his genius. 
He had, most undoubtedly, an excellent good plain 
understanding, with sound judgment. But these 
alone would probably have raised him but something 
higher than they found him; which was page to 
King James the Second's Queen. There the graces 
protected and promoted him; for, while he was an 
ensign of the Guards, the Duchess of Cleveland, 
then favorite mistress to King Charles the Second, 
struck by those very graces, gave him five thousand 
pounds, with which he immediately bought an 
annuity for his life, of five hundred pounds a year, 
of my grandfather, Halifax, which was the founda 
tion of his subsequent fortune. His figure was 
beautiful, but his manner was irresistible, to either 
man or woman. It was by this engaging, graceful 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 189 

manner that he was enabled, during all his war, to 
connect the various and jarring powers of the Grand 
Alliance, and to carry them on to the main object 
of the war, notwithstanding their private and sepa 
rate views, jealousies, and wrongheadedness. What 
ever court he went to (and he was often obliged to 
go himself to some testy and refractory ones), he 
as constantly prevailed, and brought them into his 
measures. The Pensionary Heinsius, a venerable 
old minister, grown gray in business, and who had 
governed the Republic of the United Provinces for 
more than forty years, was absolutely governed by 
the Duke of Marlborough, as that republic feels to 
this day. He was always cool; and nobody ever 
observed the least variation in his countenance; he 
could refuse more gracefully than other people could 
grant ; and those who went away from him the most 
dissatisfied, as to the substance of their business, 
were yet personally charmed with him, and, in some 
degree, comforted by his manner. With all his 
gentleness and gracefulness, no man living was more 
conscious of his situation, nor maintained his dig 
nity better. [Same date.] 

A FATHER'S ANXIETY. This subject is inex 
haustible, as it extends to everything that is to be 
said or done; but I will leave it for the present, as 



190 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

this letter is already pretty long. Such is my desire, 
my anxiety for your perfection, that I never think I 
have said enough, though you may possibly think I 
have said too much; and though, in truth, if your 
own good sense is not sufficient to direct you, in 
many of these plain points, all that I or anybody 
else can say will be insufficient. But, where you 
are concerned, I am the insatiable man in Horace, 
who covets still a little corner more, to complete the 
figure of his field. I dread every little corner that 
may deform mine, in which I would have (if pos 
sible) no one defect. [Same date.] 

MOURNING. I am at present under very great 
concern for the loss of a most affectionate brother, 
with whom I had always lived in the closest friend 
ship. My brother John died last Friday night, of a 
fit of the gout, which he had had for about a month 
in his hands and feet, and which fell at last upon 
his stomach and head. As he grew, towards the last, 
lethargic, his end was not painful to himself. At 
the distance which you are from hence, you need not 
go into mourning upon this occasion, as the time of 
your mourning would be near over before you could 
put it on. [Dec. 6, 1748."} 

FRIVOLITY. Little minds mistake little objects 
for great ones, and lavish away upon the former 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 191 

that time and attention which only the latter 
deserve. To such mistakes we owe the numerous 
and frivolous tribe of insect-mongers, shell-mongers, 
and pursuers and driers of butterflies, etc. The 
strong mind distinguishes, not only between the 
useful and the useless, but likewise between the use 
ful and the curious. He applies himself intensely 
to the former; he only amuses himself with the 
latter. Of this little sort of knowledge, which I 
have just hinted at, you will find, at least, as much 
as you need wish to know, in a superficial but pretty 
French book, entitled "Spectacle de la Nature," 
which will amuse you while you read it, and give 
you a sufficient notion of the various parts of 
nature; I would advise you to read it at leisure 
hours. [Same date.~\ 

ASTRONOMY. But that part of nature which, 
Mr. Harte tells me, you have begun to study, with 
the Rector magnificus, is of much greater impor 
tance, and deserves much more attention; I mean 
astronomy. The vast and immense planetary sys 
tem, the astonishing order and regularity of those 
innumerable worlds, will open a scene to you which 
not only deserves your attention as a matter of 
curiosity, or rather astonishment ; but, still more, as 
it will give you greater and consequently juster 



192 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

ideas of that eternal and omnipotent Being, who 
contrived, made, and still preserves that universe, 
than all the contemplation of this, comparatively, 
very little orb, which we at present inhabit, could 
possibly give you. Upon this subject, Monsieur 
Fontenelle's "Pluralite des Mondes," which you may 
read in two hours' time, will both inform and please 
you. God bless you! Yours. [Same date.] 

The whole morning, if diligently and attentively 
devoted to solid studies, will go a great way at the 
year's end; and the evenings spent in the pleasures 
of good company will go as far in teaching you a 
knowledge not much less necessary than the other 
I mean the knowledge of the world. Between these 
two necessary studies, that of books in the morning, 
and that of the world in the evening, you see that 
you will not have one minute to squander or slattern 
away. Nobody ever lent themselves more than I 
did, when I was young, to the pleasures and dissipa 
tion of good company ; I even did it too much. But 
then, I can assure you that I always found time for 
serious studies; and when I could find it no other 
way, I took it out of my sleep, for I resolved always 
to rise early in the morning, however late I went to 
bed at night; and this resolution I have kept so 
sacred that, unless when I have been confined to my 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 193 

bed by illness, I have not for more than forty years 
ever been in bed at nine o'clock in the morning, but 
commonly up before eight. [Dec. 13, 1748.] 

WRITING. Why do you not form your Roman 
characters better? for I maintain that it is in every 
man's power to write what hand he pleases; and 
consequently that he ought to write a good one. 
You form, particularly, your ee and your 11 in 
zigzag, instead of making them straight, as thus, 
ee, II; a fault very easily mended. You will not, I 
believe, be angry with this little criticism, when I 
tell you that, by all the accounts I have had of late, 
from Mr. Harte and others, this is the only criticism 
that you give me occasion to make. [Dec. 20, 
1748.-] 

A PORTRAIT. Consider what lustre and eclat it 
will give you when you return here, to be allowed 
to be the best scholar, of a gentleman, in England; 
not to mention the real pleasure and solid comfort 
which such knowledge will give you throughout 
your whole life. Mr. Harte tells me another thing 
which, I own, I did not expect ; it is that, when you 
read aloud, or repeat part of plays, you speak very 
properly and distinctly. This relieves me from 
great uneasiness, which I was under upon account 
of your former bad enunciation. Go on, and attend 



194 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

most diligently to this important article. It is, of 
all the graces (and they are all necessary), the most 
necessary one. [Same date.] 

THE DESIRE OF PRAISE. But here let me, as an 
old stager upon the theatre of the world, suggest 
one consideration to you, which is, to extend your 
desire of praise a little beyond the strictly praise 
worthy ; or else you may be apt to discover too much 
contempt for at least three parts in the five of the 
world, who will never forgive it you. In the mass 
of mankind, I fear, there is too great a majority of 
fools and knaves; who, singly from their number, 
must to a certain degree be respected, though they 
are by no means respectable. And a man, who will 
show every knave or fool that he thinks him such, 
will engage in a most ruinous war, against numbers 
much superior to those that he and his allies can 
bring into the field. Abhor a knave, and pity a 
fool in your heart, but let neither of them, unneces 
sarily, see that you do so. Some complaisance and 
attention to fools is prudent, and not mean; as a 
silent abhorrence of individual knaves is often neces 
sary, and not criminal. [Same date.] 

A COMPLIMENT. Lady Chesterfield bids me tell 
you that she decides entirely in your favor,* against 
*On a German question. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 195 

Mr. Grevenkop, and even against herself; for she 
does not think that she could, at this time, write 
either so good a character, or so good German. 
Pray write her a German letter upon that subject; 
in which you may tell her that, like the rest of the 
world, you approve of her judgment, because it is in 
your favor ; and that you true Germans cannot allow 
Danes to be competent judges of your language, etc. 
[Same date.] 

AFFECTATION. Any affectation whatsoever in 
dress implies, in my mind, a flaw in the understand 
ing. Most of our young fellows here display some 
character or other by their dress : some affect the 
tremendous, and wear a great and fiercely cocked 
hat, an enormous sword, a short waistcoat, and a 
black cravat; these I should be almost tempted to 
swear the peace against, in my own defence, if I 
were not convinced that they are but meek asses in 
lions' skins. Others go in brown frocks, leather 
breeches, great oaken cudgels in their hands, their 
hats uncocked, and their hair unpowdered; and 
imitate grooms, stage-coachmen, and country bump 
kins, so well in their outsides, that I do not make 
the least doubt of their resembling them equally in 
their insides. A man of sense carefully avoids 
any particular character in his dress; he is accu- 



196 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

rately clean for his own sake ; but all the rest is for 
other people's. He dresses as well, and in the same 
manner, as the people of sense and fashion of the 
place where he is. If he dresses better, as he thinks, 
that is, more than they, he is a fop; if he dresses 
worse, he is unpardonably negligent; but, of the 
two, I would rather have a young fellow too much 
than too little dressed; the excess on that side will 
wear off, with a little age and reflection; but if he 
is negligent at twenty, he will be a sloven at forty, 
and stink at fifty years old. Dress yourself fine, 
where others are fine; and plain, where others are 
plain; but take care, always, that your clothes are 
well made and fit you, for otherwise they will give 
you a very awkward air. When you are once well 
dressed for the day, think no more of it afterwards ; 
and, without any stiffness for fear of discomposing 
that dress, let all your motions be as easy and nat 
ural as if you had no clothes on at all. So much for 
dress, which I maintain to be a thing of consequence 
in the polite world. [Dec. 30, 1748.'] 

A HAPPY NEW YEAR. I send you, my dear child 
r (and you will not doubt), very sincerely, the wishes 
of the season. May you deserve a great number of 
happy new years ; and, if you deserve, may you have 
them! Many new years, indeed, you may see, but 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 197 

happy ones you cannot see without deserving them. 
These, virtue, honor, and knowledge, alone can 
merit, alone can procure. "Dii tibi dent annos de te 
nam caetera sumes," was a pretty piece of poetical 
flattery, where it was said; I hope that in time it 
may be no flattery when said to you. But, I assure 
you, that, whenever I cannot apply the latter part 
of the line to you with truth, I shall neither say, 
think, nor wish the former. Adieu. [Same date.] 

RATIONAL PLEASURES. Now that you are going 
a little more into the world, I will take this occasion 
to explain my intentions as to your future expenses, 
that you may know what you have to expect from 
me, and make your plan accordingly. I shall neither 
deny nor grudge you any money that may be neces 
sary for either your improvement or your pleasures ; 
I mean, the pleasures of a rational being. Under 
the head of improvement, I mean the best books, 
and the best masters, cost what they will; I also 
mean all the expense of lodgings, coach, dress, 
servants, etc., which, according to the several places 
where you may be, shall be respectively necessary, to 
enable you to keep the best company. Under the 
head of rational pleasures, I comprehend, first, 
proper charities, to real and compassionate objects 
of it; secondly, proper presents, to those to whom 



198 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 

you are obliged, or whom you desire to oblige; 
thirdly, a conformity of expense to that of the com 
pany which you keep as in public spectacles, your 
share of little entertainments, a few pistoles at 
games of mere commerce, and other incidental calls 
of good company. The only two articles which I 
will never supply, are the profusion of low riot and 
the idle lavishness of negligence and laziness. A 
fool squanders away, without credit or advantage to 
himself, more than a man of sense spends with both. 
The latter employs his money as he does his time, 
and neither spends a shilling of the one, nor a min 
ute of the other, but in something that is either 
useful or rationally pleasing to himself or others. 
The former buys whatever he does not want, and 
does not pay for what he does want. He cannot 
withstand the charms of a toy-shop; snuff-boxes, 
watches, heads of canes, etc., are his destruction. His 
servants and tradesmen conspire with his own indo 
lence, to cheat him ; and, in a little time, he is aston 
ished, in the midst of all the ridiculous superfluities, 
to find himself in want of all the real comforts and 
necessaries of life. Without care and method the 
largest fortune will not, and with them, almost the 
smallest will, supply all necessary expenses. As far 
as you can possibly, pay ready money for everything 
you buy, and avoid bills. Pay that money too, your- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 199 

self, and not through the hands of any servant, who 
always either stipulates poundage, or requires a 
present for his good word, as they call it. Where 
'you must have bills (as for meat and drink, clothes, 
etc.) pay them regularly every month, and with 
your own hand. Never, from a mistaken economy, 
buy a thing you do not want, because it is cheap; 
or, from a silly pride, because it is dear. Keep an 
account, in a book, of all that you receive, and of 
all that you pay; for no man, who knows what he 
receives, and what he pays, ever runs out. I do not 
mean that you should keep an account of the shil 
lings and half-crowns which you may spend in 
chair-hire, operas, etc., they are unworthy of the 
time, and of the ink, that they would consume; leave 
such minutia to dull, penny wise fellows ; but remem 
ber, in economy, as well as in every other part of 
life, to have the proper attention to proper objects, 
and the proper contempt for little ones. A strong 
mind sees things in their true proportions: a weak 
one views them through a magnifying medium; 
which, like the microscope, makes an elephant of a 
flea; magnifies all little objects, but cannot receive 
great ones. I have known many a man pass for a 
miser, by saving a penny, and wrangling for two 
pence, who was undoing himself, at the same time, 
by living above his income, and not attending to 



200 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

essential articles, which were above his portee. The 
sure characteristic of a sound and strong mind is, 
to find, in everything, those certain bounds, quos 
ultra citrave nequit consistere rectum. These boun 
daries are marked out by a very fine line, which 
only good sense and attention can discover; it is 
much too fine for vulgar eyes. In manners, this line 
is good breeding; beyond it, is troublesome cere 
mony; short of it, is unbecoming negligence and 
inattention. In morals, it divides ostentatious Puri 
tanism from criminal relaxation; in religion, 
superstition from impiety; and, in short, every 
virtue from its kindred vice or weakness. I think 
you have sense enough to discover the line; keep it 
always in your eye, and learn to walk upon it ; rest 
upon Mr. Harte, and he will poise you till you are 
able to go alone. By the way, there are fewer 
people who walk well upon that line, than upon the 
slack rope; and therefore a good performer shines 
so much the more. [Jan. 10, 1749-] 

DANCING. Remember to take the best dancing 
master at Berlin, more to teach you to sit, stand, and 
walk gracefully, than to dance finely. The Graces, 
the Graces; remember the Graces! Adieu. [Same 
date.] 

THE CLASSICS THEIR VALUE. My first preju- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 201 

dice (for I do not mention the prejudices of boys 
and women, such as hobgoblins, ghosts, dreams, 
spilling salt, etc.) was my classical enthusiasm, 
which I received from the books I read, and the 
masters who explained them to me. I was con 
vinced there had been no common sense nor common 
honesty in the world for these last fifteen hundred 
years; but that they were totally extinguished with 
the ancient Greek and Roman governments. Homer 
and Virgil could have no faults, because they were 
ancient; Milton and Tasso could have no merit, 
because they were modern. And I could almost 
have said, with regard to the ancients, what Cicero, 
very absurdly and unbecomingly for a philosopher, 
says with regard to Plato, "Cum quo errare malim; 
quam cum aliis recte sentire." Whereas now, with 
out any extraordinary effort of genius, I have dis 
covered that nature was the same three thousand 
years ago as it is at present ; that men were but men 
then as well as now; that modes and customs vary 
often, but that human nature is always the same. 
And I can no more suppose, that men were better, 
braver, or wiser, fifteen hundred or three thousand 
years ago, than I can suppose that the animals or 
vegetables were better then than they are now. I 
dare assert too, in defiance of the favorers of the 
ancients, that Homer's hero, Achilles, was both a 



203 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

brute and a scoundrel, and consequently an improper 
character for the hero of an epic poem; he had so 
little regard for his country, that he would not act 
in defence of it, because he had quarrelled with 

Agamemnon about a w e; and then afterward, 

animated by private resentment only, he went about 
killing people basely, I will call it, because he knew 
himself invulnerable; and yet, invulnerable as he 
was, he wore the strongest armor in the world; 
which I humbly apprehend to be a blunder; for a 
horseshoe clapped to his vulnerable heel would have 
been sufficient. On the other hand, with submission 
to the favorers of the moderns, I assert with Mr. 
Dryden, that the Devil is in truth the hero of Mil 
ton's poem : his plan, which he lays, pursues, and at 
last executes, being the subject of the poem. From 
all which considerations, I impartially conclude, that 
the ancients had their excellencies and their defects, 
their virtues and their vices, just like the moderns: 
pedantry and affectation of learning decide clearly 
in favor of the former; vanity and ignorance, as 
peremptorily, in favor of the latter. Religious pre 
judices kept pace with my classical ones ; and there 
was a time when I thought it impossible for the 
honestest man in the world to be saved, out of the 
pale of the Church of England : not considering that 
matters of opinion do not depend upon the will ; and 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 203 

that it is as natural, and as allowable, that another 
man should differ in opinion from me, as that I 
should differ from him; and that, if we are both 
sincere, we are both blameless: and should conse 
quently have mutual indulgence for each other. 
[Feb. 7, 1749.} 

REFLECTION ITS USE. Use and assert your 
own reason; reflect, examine, and analyze every 
thing, in order to form a sound and mature judg 
ment ; let no ovros stpa impose upon your under 
standing, mislead your actions, or dictate your 
conversation. Be early, what, if you are not, you 
will, when too late, wish you had been. Consult 
your reason betimes : I do not say that it will always 
prove an unerring guide; for human reason is not 
infallible: but it will prove the least erring guide 
that you can follow. Books and conversation may 
assist it; but adopt neither, blindly and implicitly; 
try both by that best rule which God has given to 
direct us, Reason. Of all the troubles do not decline, 
as many people do, that of thinking. The herd of 
mankind can hardly be said to think; their notions 
are almost all adoptive; and, in general, I believe 
it is better that it should be so; as such common 
prejudices contribute more to order and quiet, than 
their own separate reasonings would do, uncultivated 



204: CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

and unimproved as they are. We have many of 
those useful prejudices in this country, which I 
should be very sorry to see removed. The good 
Protestant conviction, that the Pope is both Anti 
christ, and the Whore of Babylon, is a more effect 
ual preservative, in this country, against popery, 
than all the solid and unanswerable arguments of 
Chillingworth. 

The idle story of the Pretender's having been 
introduced in a warming-pan, into the queen's bed, 
though as destitute of all probability as of all foun 
dation, has been much more prejudicial to the cause 
of Jacobitism, than all that Mr. Locke and others 
have written, to show the unreasonableness and 
absurdity of the doctrines of indefeasible hereditary 
right and unlimited passive obedience. And that 
silly, sanguine notion, which is firmly entertained 
here, that one Englishman can beat three French 
men, encourages, and has sometimes enabled one 

Englishman, in reality, to beat two. [Same date.~\ 

\ 

LIBERTY OF THE PRESS. Can an author with 
reason complain that he is cramped and shackled 
if he is not at liberty to publish blasphemy, bawdry, 
or sedition? all which are equally prohibited in 
the freest governments, if they are wise and well 
regulated ones. This is the present general com- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 205 

plaint of the French authors ; but, indeed, chiefly of 
the bad ones. No wonder, say they, that England 
produces so many great geniuses ; people there may 
think as they please, and publish what they think. 
Very true, but who hinders them from thinking as 
they please? If, indeed, they think in a manner 
destructive of all religion, morality, or good man 
ners, or to the disturbance of the state; an absolute 
government will certainly more effectually prohibit 
them from, or punish them for publishing such 
thoughts, than a free one could do. But how does 
that cramp the genius of an epic, dramatic, or lyric 
poet? Or how does it corrupt the eloquence of an 
orator, in the pulpit or at the bar? [Same date.~\ 

GRACEFUL BEHAVIOR. There is another object 
that must keep pace with and accompany knowl 
edge; I mean, manners, politeness, and the graces; 
in which Sir Charles Williams, though very much 
your friend, owns you are very deficient. The man 
ners of Leipsic must be shook off; and in that 
respect you must put on the new man. No scramb 
ling at your meals, as at a German ordinary; no 
awkward overturns of glasses, plates, and salt-cel 
lars; no horse-play. On the contrary, a gentleness 
of manners, a graceful carriage, and an insinuating 
address, must take their place. I repeat, and shall 



206 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

never cease repeating to you, the Graces, the Graces. 
[April 12, 1749.} 

A GENTLEMAN'S PLEASURES. DEAR BOY: This 
letter will, I believe, still find you at Venice, in all 
the dissipation of masquerades, ridottos, operas, 
etc. : with all my heart ; they are decent evening 
amusements, and very properly succeed that serious 
application to which I am sure you devote your 
mornings. There are liberal and illiberal pleasures, 
as well as liberal and illiberal arts. There are some 
pleasures, that degrade a gentleman, as much as 
some trades could do. Sottish drinking, indiscrim 
inate gluttony, driving coaches, rustic sports, such 
as fox-chases, horse-races, etc., are, in my opinion, 
infinitely below the honest and industrious profes 
sions of a tailor, and a shoemaker, which are said 
to deroger. [April 19, 1749.] 

Music FIDDLING. I cannot help cautioning 
you against giving into those (I will call them illib 
eral) pleasures (though music is commonly reck 
oned one of the liberal arts) to the degree that most 
of your countrymen do when they travel in Italy. 
If you love music, hear it; go to operas, concerts, 
and pay fiddlers to play to you; but I insist upon 
your neither piping nor fiddling yourself. It puts 
a gentleman in a very frivolous, contemptible light ; 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 207 

brings him into a great deal of bad company; and 
takes up a great deal of time, which might be much 
better employed. Few things would mortify me 
more than to see you bearing a part in a concert, 
with a fiddle under your chin, or a pipe in your 
mouth. [Same date.] 

MANIERES. By manieres, I do not mean bare 
common civility; everybody must have that, who 
would not be kicked out of company; but I mean 
engaging, insinuating, shining manners; a distin 
guished politeness, an almost irresistible address; a 
superior gracefulness in all you say and do. It is 
this alone that can give all your other talents their 
full lustre and value; and consequently, it is this 
which should now be the principal object of your 
attention. Observe minutely, wherever you go, the 
allowed and established morals of good breeding, 
and form yourself upon them. Whatever pleases 
you most, in others, will infallibly please others, in 
you. I have often repeated this to you ; now is your 
time of putting it in practice. [Same date.] 

LITTLE PRINCES. In general, I believe that little 
princes are more likely to be great men than those 
whose more extensive dominions, and superior 
strength, flatter them with security; which com 
monly produces negligence and indolence. A little 



208 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

prince, in the neighborhood of great ones, must be 
alert, and look out sharp, if he would secure his own 
dominions; much more still, if he would enlarge 
them. He must watch for conjunctures, or endeavor 
to make them. No princes have ever possessed this 
art better than those of the House of Savoy, who 
have enlarged their dominions prodigiously within 
a century, by profiting of conjunctures. [Same 
date.] 

ATTENTIONS. A young man should never be 
wanting in these attentions; they cost little and 
bring in a great deal, by getting you people's good 
word and affection. They gain the heart, to which 
I have always advised you to apply yourself partic 
ularly; it guides ten thousand for one that reason 
influences. 

I cannot end this letter, or (I believe) any other, 
without repeating my recommendation of the 
Graces. They are to be met with at Turin; for 
God's sake, sacrifice to them, and they will be pro 
pitious. People mistake grossly, to imagine that 
the least awkwardness, in either matter or manner, 
mind or body, is an indifferent thing, and not 
worthy of attention. It may possibly be a weak 
ness in me (but in short we are all so made). I 
confess to you fairly, that when you shall come 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 209 

home, and that I first see you, if I find you ungrace 
ful in your address, and awkward in your person 
and dress, it will be impossible for me to love you 
half so well as I should otherwise do, let your 
intrinsic merit and knowledge be ever so great. 
[Same date.] 

ENGLISH ABROAD. I am informed there are now 
many English at the Academy at Turin, and I fear 
those are just so many dangers for you to encounter. 
Who they are, I do not know; but I well know the 
general ill conduct, the indecent behavior, and the 
illiberal views of my young countrymen abroad; 
especially wherever they are in numbers together. 
Ill example is of itself dangerous enough ; but those 
who give it seldom stop there ; they add their infam 
ous exhortations and invitations; and, if these fail, 
they have recourse to ridicule, which is harder for 
one of your age and inexperience to withstand than 
either of the former. Be upon your guard, there 
fore, against these batteries, which will all be played 
upon you. You are not sent abroad to converse 
with your own countrymen; among them, in gen 
eral, you will get little knowledge, no languages, 
and, I am sure, no manners. I desire that you will 
form no connections, nor (what they impudently 
call) friendships, with these people; which are, in 



210 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTERS. 

truth, only combinations and conspiracies against 
good morals and good manners. [May 75, 1749.] 

VICES SHOULD BE ORIGINAL. If people had no 
vices but their own, few would have so many as 
they have. For my own part, I would sooner wear 
other people's clothes than their vices; and they 
would sit upon me just as well. I hope you will 
have none; but, if ever you have, I beg, at least, 
they may be all your own. Vices of adoption are, 
of all others, the most disgraceful and unpardon 
able. There are degrees in vices, as well as in 
virtues ; and I must do my countrymen the justice to 
say, they generally take their vices in the lowest 
degree. Their gallantry is the infamous mean 
debauchery of stews, justly attended and rewarded 
by the loss of their health as well as their character. 
Their pleasures of the table end in beastly drunken 
ness, low riot, broken windows, and very often (as 
they well deserve) broken bones. They game for 
the sake of the vice, not of the amusement; and 
therefore carry it to excess; undo, or are undone 
by, their companions. By such conduct, and in 
such company abroad, they come home the unim 
proved, illiberal, and ungentlemanlike creatures that 
one daily sees them ; that is, in the park, and in the 
streets, for one never meets them in good company; 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 211 

where they have neither manners to present them 
selves, nor merit to be received. But, with the 
manners of footmen and grooms, they assume their 
dress too; for you must have observed them in the 
streets here, in dirty blue frocks, with oaken sticks 
in their hands, and their hair greasy and unpow- 
dered, tucked up under their hats of an enormous 
size. Thus finished and adorned by their travels, 
they become the disturbers of playhouses ; they break 
the windows, and commonly the landlords, of the 
taverns where they drink; and are at once the sup 
port, the terror, and the victims of the bawdy-houses 
they frequent. These poor mistaken people think 
they shine, and so they do indeed; but it is as 
putrefaction shines, in the dark. 

I am not now preaching to you, like an old fellow, 
upon either religious or moral texts ; I am persuaded 
you do not want the best instructions of that kind; 
but I am advising you as a man, as a friend of the 
world, as one who would not have you old while you 
are young, but would have you take all the pleasures 
that reason points out, and that decency warrants. 
[Same date.] 

FOOLISH SAYINGS. There are some expressions, 
both in French and English, and some characters, 
both in those two and in other countries, which 



212 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

have, I dare say, misled many young men to their 
ruin. Une honnete debauche, une jolie debauche: an 
agreeable rake, a man of pleasure. Do not think 
that this means debauchery and profligacy ; nothing 
like it. It means, at most, the accidental and unfre- 
quent irregularities of youth and vivacity, in opposi 
tion to dulness, formality, and want of spirit. [Same 
date.] 

How TO PLEASE. You must not neglect your 
dress neither, but take care to be bien mis. Pray 
send for the best operator for the teeth at Turin, 
where I suppose there is some famous one, and let 
him put yours in perfect order; and then take care 
to keep them so afterwards yourself. You had very 
good teeth, and I hope they are so still; but even 
those who have bad ones should keep them clean; 
for a dirty mouth is, to my mind, ill manners. In 
short, neglect nothing that can possibly please. A 
thousand nameless little things, which nobody can 
describe but which everybody feels, conspire to form 
that whole of pleasing; as the several pieces of a 
mosaic work, though separately of little beauty or 
value, when properly joined form those beautiful 
figures which please everybody. A look, a gesture, 
an attitude, a tone of voice, all bear their parts in 
the great work of pleasing. The art of pleasing is 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 



more particularly necessary in your intended profes 
sion than perhaps in any other; it is, in truth, the 
first half of your business ; for if you do not please 
the court you are sent to, you will be of very little 
use to the court you are sent from. Please the eyes 
and the ears, they will introduce you to the heart; 
and, nine times in ten, the heart governs the under 
standing. 

Make your court particularly, and show distin 
guished attentions, to such men and women as are 
best at court, highest in the fashion and in the 
opinion of the public ; speak advantageously of them 
behind their backs, in companies who you have 
reason to believe will tell them again. Express your 
admiration of the many great men that the house 
of Savoy has produced ; observe, that nature, instead 
of being exhausted by those efforts, seems to have 
redoubled them in the persons of the present king, 
and the Duke of Savoy; wonder at this rate where 
it will end, and conclude that it will end in the gov 
ernment of all Europe. Say this, likewise, where it 
will probably be repeated; but say it unaffectedly, 
and the last, especially, with a kind of enjouement. 
These little arts are very allowable, and must be 
made use of in the course of the world; they are 
pleasing to one party, useful to the other, and injuri 
ous to nobody. [Same date.] 



214 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTEES. 

FLATTERY. I recommended to you, in my last, 
an innocent piece of art; that of flattering people 
behind their backs, in presence of those who, to make 
their own court, much more than for your sake, will 
not fail to repeat, and even amplify the praise to 
the party concerned. This is of all flattery the most 
pleasing, and consequently the most effectual. There 
are other, and many other inoffensive arts of this 
kind, which are necessary in the course of the 
world, and which he who practises the earliest, will 
please the most, and rise the soonest. [May 22, 
1749-} 

TEMPER. The principal of these things, is the 
mastery of one's temper, and that coolness of mind, 
and serenity of countenance, which hinders us from 
discovering, by words, actions, or even looks, those 
passions or sentiments, by which we are inwardly 
moved or agitated; and the discovery of which, 
gives cooler and abler people such infinite advantages 
over us, not only in business, but in all the most 
common occurrences of life. A man who does not 
possess himself enough to hear disagreeable things, 
without visible marks of anger and change of coun 
tenance, or agreeable ones without sudden bursts of 
joy and expansion of countenance, is at the mercy 
of every artful knave, or pert coxcomb; the former 






SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 215 

will provoke or please you by design, to catch 
unguarded words or looks, by which he will easily 
decipher the secrets of your heart, of which you 
should keep the key yourself, and trust it with no 
man living. [Same date.~\ 

IMMOBILITY. Determine, too, to keep your coun 
tenance as unmoved and unembarrassed as possible ; 
which steadiness you may get a habit of, by con 
stant attention. I should desire nothing better, in 
any negotiation, than to have to do with one of these 
men of warm, quick passions; which I would take 
care to set in motion. By artful provocations, I 
would extort rash and unguarded expressions; and, 
by hinting at all the several things that I could 
suspect, infallibly discover the true one, by the alter 
ation it occasioned in the countenance of the person. 
Volto sciolto con pensieri stretti,* is a most useful 
maxim in business. [Same date.] 

DISSIMULATION. It may be objected, that I am 
now recommending dissimulation to you; I both 
own and justify it. It has been long said : Qui nescit 
dissimulare nescit regnare: I go still farther, 
and say, that without some dissimulation, no busi 
ness can be carried on at all. It is simulation that is 
false, mean and criminal ; that is the cunning which 

* An open face with a close (or secret) mind. 



216 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEKS. 

Lord Bacon calls crooked or left-handed wisdom, 
and which is never made use of but by those who 
have not true wisdom. And the same great man 
says, that dissimulation is only to hide our own 
cards ; whereas simulation is put on in order to look 
into other people's. Lord Bolingbroke in his "Idea 
of a Patriot King," which he has lately published, 
and which I will send you by the first opportunity, 
says, very justly, that simulation is a stiletto; not 
only an unjust but an unlawful weapon, and the use 
of it very rarely to be excused, never justified. 
Whereas dissimulation is a shield, as secrecy is 
armor ; and it is no more possible to preserve secrecy 
in business, without some degree of dissimulation, 
than it is to succeed in business without secrecy. 
[Same date.] 

THE FACE. Make yourself absolute master, 
therefore, of your temper, and your countenance, so 
far, at least, as that no visible change do appear in 
either, whatever you may feel inwardly. This may 
be difficult, but it is by no means impossible; and, 
as a man of sense never attempts impossibilities on 
one hand, on the other he is never discouraged by 
difficulties. [Same date.] 

THE EASY MOMENT. Some people are to be 
reasoned, some flattered, some intimidated, and some 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 217 

teased into a thing; but, in general, all are to be 
brought into it at last, if skilfully applied to, prop 
erly managed, and indefatigably attacked in their 
several weak places. The time should likewise be 
judiciously chosen : every man has his mollia tem- 
pora, but that is far from being all day long; and 
you would choose your time very ill, if you applied 
to a man about one business, when his head was 
full of another, or when his heart was full of grief, 
anger, or any other disagreeable sentiments. [Same 
date.] 

JUDGE OF OTHERS BY YOURSELF. In order to 
judge of the inside of others, study your own; for 
men in general are very much alike ; and though one 
has one prevailing passion, and another has another, 
yet their operations are much the same; and what 
ever engages or disgusts, pleases or offends you, in 
others, will, mutatis mutandis, engage, disgust, 
please, or offend others, in you. [Same date.] 

SMART SAYINGS. The temptation of saying a 
smart and witty thing, or bon mot, and the malicious 
applause with which it is commonly received, have 
made people who can say them, and, still oftener, 
people who think they can, but cannot and yet try, 
more enemies, and implacable ones too, than any 
one other thing that I know of. When such things. 



218 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

then, shall happen to be said at your expense (as 
sometimes they certainly will) reflect seriously upon 
the sentiments of uneasiness, anger, and resentment, 
which they excite in you; and consider whether it 
can be prudent, by the same means, to excite the 
same sentiments in others against you. It is a 
decided folly to lose a friend for a jest; but, in my 
mind, it is not a much less degree of folly, to make 
an enemy of an indifferent and neutral person for 
the sake of a bon mot. When things of this kind 
happen to be said of you the most prudent way is 
to seem not to suppose that they are meant at you, 
but to dissemble and conceal whatever degree of 
anger you may feel inwardly ; and should they be so 
plain that you cannot be supposed ignorant of their 
meaning, to join in the laugh of the company 
against yourself; acknowledge the hit to be a fair 
one, and the jest a good one, and play off the whole 
thing in seeming good humor; but by no means 
reply in the same way; which only shows that you 
are hurt, and publishes the victory which you might 
have concealed. Should the thing said, indeed, 
injure your honor, or moral character, there is but 
one proper reply ; which I hope you will never have 
occasion to make. [Same date.] 

WOMEN OF FASHION. They are a numerous and 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 219 

loquacious body; their hatred would be more preju 
dicial than their friendship can be advantageous to 
you. A general complaisance and attention to that 
sex is, therefore, established by custom, and cer 
tainly necessary. But where you would particularly 
please any one, whose situation, interest, or connec 
tions can be of use to you, you must show particular 
preference. The least attentions please, the greatest 
charm them. The innocent but pleasing flattery of 
their persons, however gross, is greedily swallowed, 
and kindly digested, but a seeming regard for their 
understandings, a seeming desire of, and deference 
for, their advice, together with a seeming confidence 
in their moral virtues, turns their head entirely in 
your favor. Nothing shocks them so much as the 
least appearance of that contempt, which they are 
apt to suspect men of entertaining of their capac 
ities; and you may be very sure of gaining their 
friendship, if you seem to think it worth gaining. 
Here dissimulation is very often necessary, and even 
simulation sometimes allowable ; which, as it pleases 
them, may be useful to you and is injurious to 
nobody. [Same date.] 

VENETIAN ART. The time you will probably 
pass at Venice will allow you to make yourself mas 
ter of that intricate and singular form of govern- 



220 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

ment, which few of our travellers know anything of. 
Read, ask, and see everything that is relative to it. 
There are, likewise, many valuable remains of the 
remotest antiquity, and many fine pieces of the antico 
moderno, all which deserve a different sort of atten 
tion from that which your countrymen commonly 
give them. They go to see them as they go to see 
the lions, and kings on horseback, at the Tower here, 
only to say that they have seen them. You will, I 
am sure, view them in another light; you will 
consider them as you would a poem, to which 
indeed they are akin. You will observe whether the 
sculptor has animated his stone, or the painter his 
canvas, into the just expression of those sentiments 
and passions which should characterize and mark 
their several figures. [June 22, 1749.] 

SCULPTURE AND PAINTING. You will examine, 
likewise, whether, in their groups there be a unity 
of action or proper relation; a truth of dress and 
manners. Sculpture and painting are very justly 
called liberal arts; a lively and strong imagination, 
together with a just observation being absolutely 
necessary to excel in either, which, in my opinion, is 
by no means the case of music, though called a lib 
eral art, and now in Italy placed even above the 
other two a proof of the decline of that country. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 221 

A taste of sculpture and painting is, in my mind, as 
becoming as a taste of fiddling and piping is unbe 
coming a man of fashion. The former is connected 
with history and poetry; the latter, with nothing 
that I know of, but bad company. [Same date.] 

\ AMIABILITY. There is a certain concurrence of 
various little circumstances, which compose what 
the French call I' amiable; and which, now you are 
entering into the world, you ought to make it your 
particular study to acquire. Without them, your 
learning will be pedantry, your conversation often 
improper, always unpleasant, and your figure, how 
ever good in itself, awkward and unengaging. A 
diamond while rough has indeed its intrinsic value; 
but till polished is of no use, and would neither be 
sought for nor worn. Its great lustre, it is true, 
proceeds from its solidity and strong cohesion of 
parts; but without the last polish, it would remain 
forever a dirty, rough mineral in the cabinets of 
some few curious collectors.. You have, I hope, that 
solidity and cohesion of parts; take now as much 
pains to get the lustre. Good company, if you make 
the right use of it, will cut you into shape, and give 
you the true brilliant polish. Apropos of diamonds, 
I have sent you, by Sir James Gray, the king's min 
ister, who will be at Venice about the middle of 



222 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

September, my own diamond buckles, which are 
fitter for your young feet than for my old ones; 
they will properly adorn you; they would only 
expose me. [Same date.] 

TRIFLES. Great merit or great failings will make 
you respected or despised ; but trifles, little attentions, 
mere nothings, either done or neglected, will make 
you either liked or disliked, in the general run of the 
world. Examine yourself, why you like such and 
such people, and dislike such and such others; and 
you will find that those different sentiments proceed 
from very slight causes. Moral virtues are the 
foundation of society in general, and of friendship 
in particular; but attentions, manners, and graces 
both adorn and strengthen them. [July 20, 1749.} 

YOUTH ARMED BY EXPERIENCE. Your youth 
and talents, armed with my experience, may go a 
great way; and that armor is very much at your 
service, if you please to wear it. I premise that it 
is not my imagination, but my memory, that. gives 
you these rules; I am not writing pretty, useful 
reflections. A man of sense soon discovers, because 
he carefully observes where and how long he is 
welcome; and takes care to leave the company, at 
least, as soon as he is wished out of it. Fools never 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 223 

perceive whether they are ill timed or ill placed. 
[Same date.] 

IDLENESS. But indeed I do not suspect you of 
one single moment's idleness in the whole day. 
Idleness is only the refuge of weak minds, and the 
holiday of fools. I do not call good company and 
liberal pleasures idleness; far from it; I recommend 
to you a good share of both. [Same date.] 

BATHING. I am very glad that my letter, with 
Dr. Shaw's opinion, has lessened your bathing; for, 
since I was born, I never heard of bathing four 
hours a day, which would surely be too much, even 
in Medea's kettle, if you wanted (as you do not 
yet) new boiling. [July jo, 1/49.] 

ARCHITECTURE A SIMILE. To carry on the 
metaphor of building, I would wish you to be a 
Corinthian edifice, upon a Tuscan foundation; the 
latter having the utmost strength and solidity to 
support, and the former all possible ornaments to 
decorate. The Tuscan column is coarse, clumsy, 
and unpleasant ; nobody looks at it twice : the Cor 
inthian fluted column is beautiful and attractive; 
but without a solid foundation, can hardly be seen 
twice, because it must soon tumble down. Yours 
affectionately. [Same date.] 

EARN YOUR PLEASURES. No man tastes pleas- 



224 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

ures truly who does not earn them by previous busi 
ness; and few people do business well who do 
nothing else. Remember, that when I speak of 
pleasures I always mean the elegant pleasures of a 
rational being, and not the brutal ones of a swine. 
I mean la bonne chere, short of gluttony; wine, 
infinitely short of drunkenness; play, without the 
least gaming; and gallantry, without debauchery. 
There is a line in all these things which men of 
sense, for greater security, take care to keep a good 
deal on the right side of; for sickness, pain, con 
tempt, and infamy lie immediately on the other side 
of it. Men of sense and merit in all other respects 
may have had some of these failings ; but then those 
few examples, instead of inviting us to imitation, 
should only put us the more upon our guard against 
such weaknesses. Whoever thinks them fashionable 
will not be so himself. I have often known a fash 
ionable man to have some one vice, but I never, in 
my life, knew a vicious man a fashionable man. Vice 
is as degrading as it is criminal. God bless you, my 
dear child! [Aug. 7, 1749.] 

DIGNITY OF MANNERS. There is a certain dig 
nity of manners absolutely necessary, to make even 
the most valuable character either respected or re 
spectable. Horse-play, romping, frequent and loud fits 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 225 

of laughter, jokes, waggery, and indiscriminate famil 
iarity, will sink both merit and knowledge into a 
degree of contempt. They compose at most a 
merry fellow; and a merry fellow was never yet a 
respectable man. Indiscriminate familiarity either 
offends your superiors, or else dubs you their depend 
ent, and led captain. It gives your inferiors just 
but troublesome and improper claims of equality. A 
joker is near akin to a buffoon; and neither of them 
is the least related to wit. Whoever is admitted or 
sought for in company upon any account than that 
of his merit and manners, is never respected there, 
but only made use of. We will have such-a-one, for 
he sings prettily ; we will invite such-a-one to a ball, 
for he dances well; we will have such-a-one at 
supper, for he is always joking and laughing; we 
will ask another, because he plays deep at all games, 
or because he can drink a great deal. These are 
vilifying distinctions, mortifying preferences, and 
exclude all ideas of esteem and regard. Whoever 
is had (as it is called) in company, for the sake of 
any one thing singly, is singly that thing, and will 
never be considered in any other light, consequently 
never respected, let his merits be what they will. 
[Aug. 10, 



FOOLS AND THEIR FLATTERY. Abject flattery 



226 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTERS. 

and indiscriminate assentation degrade, as much as 
indiscriminate contradiction and noisy debate dis 
gust. But a modest assertion of one's own opinion, 
and a complaisant acquiescence in other people's, 
preserve dignity. 

Vulgar, low expressions, awkward motions and 
address, vilify, as they imply either a very low turn 
of mind, or low education, and low company. 
[Same date.] 

A TRIFLER. Cardinal de Retz, very sagaciously 
marked out Cardinal Chigi for a little mind, from 
the moment that he told him he had wrote (sic) 
three years with the same pen, and that it was an 
excellent good one still. 

A certain degree of exterior seriousness, in looks 
and motions, gives dignity, without excluding wit 
and decent cheerfulness, which are always serious 
themselves. A constant smirk upon the face, and a 
whiffling activity of the body, are strong indications 
of futility. Whoever is in a hurry shows that the 
thing he is about is too big for him. Haste and 
hurry are very different things. [Same date.] 

THE PRETENDER POLITICAL CAUTION. You 
will, in many parts of Italy, meet with numbers of 
the Pretender's people (English, Scotch, and Irish 
fugitives) especially at Rome; and probably the 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 227 

Pretender himself. It is none of your business to 
declare war on these people; as little as it is your 
interest, or, I hope, your inclination to connect 
yourself with them : and therefore I recommend to 
you a perfect neutrality. Avoid them as much as 
you can with decency and good manners ; but, when 
you cannot avoid any political conversation or 
debates with them, tell them that you do not concern 
yourself with political matters ; that you are neither 
a maker nor a deposer of kings ; that, when you left 
England, you left a king in it, and have not since 
heard either of his death, or of any revolution that 
has happened, and that you take kings and kingdoms 
as you find them; but enter no farther into matters 
with them, which can be of no use, and might bring 
on heat and quarrels. When you speak of the old 
Pretender you will call him only, the Chevalier de 
St. George; but mention him as seldom as possible. 
Should he chance to speak to you at any assembly 
(as, I am told, he sometimes does to the English) 
be sure that you seem not to know him ; and answer 
him civilly, but always either in French or in Italian ; 
and give him, in the former, the appellation of Mon 
sieur, and in the latter of Signore. Should you meet 
with the Cardinal of York, you will be under no 
difficulty, for he has, as Cardinal, an undoubted 
right to Eminensa. Upon the whole, see any of 



228 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 

those people as little as possible; when you do see 
them be civil to them, upon the footing of strangers ; 
but never be drawn into any altercations with them 
about the imaginary right of their king, as they 
call him. 

It is to no sort of purpose to talk to those people 
of the natural rights of mankind and particular 
constitution of this country. Blinded by prejudices, 
soured by misfortunes, and tempted by their neces 
sities, they are as incapable of reasoning rightly, as 
they have hitherto been of acting wisely. The late 
Lord Pembroke never would know anything that he 
had not a mind to know ; and, in this case, I advise 
you to follow his example. Never know either the 
father or the two sons, any otherwise than as for 
eigners; and so not knowing their pretensions you 
have no occasion to dispute them. [Sept. 5, 



A FATHER'S ANXIETY. It seems extraordinary, 
but it is very true, that my anxiety for you increases 
in proportion to the good accounts which I receive 
of you from all hands. I promise myself so much 
from you, that I dread the least disappointment. 
You are now so near the port, which I have so long 
wished and labore'd to bring you safe into, that my 
concern would be doubled, should you be ship 
wrecked within sight of it. The object, therefore, 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 229 

of this letter is (laying aside all the authority of the 
parent), to conjure you as a friend, by the affection 
you have for me (and surely you have reason to 
have some), and by the regard you have for your 
self, to go on with assiduity and attention, to com 
plete that work, which, of late, you have carried on 
so well, and which is now so near being finished. 
My wishes, and my plan, were to make you shine, 
and distinguish yourself equally in the learned and 
the polite world. Few have been able to do it. 
[Sept. 12, 1749.} 

THE STUDENT OF LIFE AND THE TRIFLER: A 
DIALOGUE. I will suppose you at Rome, studying 
six hours uninterruptedly with Mr. Harte, every 
morning, and passing your evenings with the best 
company of Rome, observing their manners and 
forming your own ; and I will suppose a number of 
idle, sauntering, illiterate English, as there com 
monly is there, living entirely with one another, 
supping, drinking, and sitting up late at each other's 
lodgings; commonly in riots and scrapes when 
drunk, and never in good company when sober. I 
will take one of these pretty fellows, and give you 
the dialogue between him and yourself; such as I 
dare say it will be on his side, and such as I hope 
it will be on yours. 



230 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTEES. 

Englishman. Will you come and breakfast with 
me to-morrow; there will be four or five of our 
countrymen; we have provided chaises, and we will 
drive somewhere out of town after breakfast ? 

Stanhope. I am very sorry I cannot; but I am 
obliged to be at home all the morning. 

Englishman. Why then we will come and break 
fast with you. 

Stanhope. I can't do that neither, I am engaged. 

Englishman. Well, then, let it be the next day. 

Stanhope. To tell you the truth, it can be no day 
in the morning; for I neither go out, nor see any 
body at home before twelve. 

Englishman. And what the devil do you do with 
yourself till twelve o'clock? 

Stanhope. I am not by myself, I am with Mr. 
Harte. 

Englishman. Then what the devil do you do 
with him? 

Stanhope. We study different things; we read, 
we converse. 

Englishman. Very pretty amusement indeed! 
Are you to take orders then ? 

Stanhope. Yes, my father's orders, I believe, I 
must take. 

Englishman. Why, hast thou no more spirit than 
to mind an old fellow a thousand miles off ? 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 231 

r Stanhope. If I don't mind his orders he won't 
mind my draughts. 

Englishman. What, does the old prig threaten, 
then? Threatened folks live long; never mind 
threats. 

Stanhope. No, I can't say that he has ever threat 
ened me in his life ; but I believe I had best not pro 
voke him. 

Englishman. Pooh! you would have one angry 
letter from the old fellow, and there would be an 
end of it. 

Stanhope. You mistake him mightily ; he always 
does more than he says. He has never been angry 
with me yet, that I remember, in his life; but if I 
were to provoke him, I am sure he would never for 
give me ; he would be coolly immovable, and I might 
beg and pray, and write my heart out to no purpose. 

Englishman. Why then, he is an old dog, that 's 
all I can say: and pray, are you to obey your dry- 
nurse too, this same what's his name Mr. Harte? 

Stanhope. Yes. 

Englishman. So he stuffs you all morning with 
Greek, and Latin, and logic, and all that. Egad, I 
have a dry-nurse too, but I never looked into a book 
with him in my life; I have not so much as seen 
the face of him this week, and don't care a louse if 
I never see it again. 



232 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

Stanhope. My dry-nurse never desires anything 
of me that is not reasonable, and for my own good ; 
and therefore I like to be with him. 

Englishman. Very sententious and edifying, 
upon my word! at this rate you will be reckoned a 
very good young man. 

Stanhope. Why, that will do me no harm. 

Englishman. Will you be with us to-morrow in 
the evening, then? We shall be ten with you; and 
I have got some excellent good wine; and we'll be 
very merry. 

Stanhope. I am very much obliged to you but I 
am engaged for all the evening, to-morrow; first at 
Cardinal Albani's; and then to sup at the Venetian 
Embassadress's. 

Englishman. How the devil can you like being 
always with these foreigners? I never go amongst 
them, with all their formalities and ceremonies. I 
am never easy in company with them, and I don't 
know why, but I am ashamed. 

Stanhope. I am neither ashamed nor afraid; I 
am very easy with them; they are very easy with 
me; I get the language, and I see their characters, 
by conversing with them; and that is what we are 
sent abroad for. Is it not? 

Englishman. I hate your modest women's com- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 233 

pany; your women of fashion, as they call 'em. I 
don't know what to say to them, for my part. 

Stanhope. Have you ever conversed with them? 

Englishman. No, I never conversed with them; 
but I have been sometimes in their company, though 
much against my will. 

Stanhope. But at least they have done you no 
hurt; which is, probably, more than you can say of 
the women you do converse with. 

Englishman. That's true, I own; but for all 
that, I would rather keep company with my surgeon 
half the year, than with your women of fashion the 
year round. 

Stanhope. Tastes are different, you know, and 
every man follows his own. 

Englishman. That's true; but thine's a devilish 
odd one, Stanhope. All morning with thy dry- 
nurse; all the evening in formal fine company; and 
all day long afraid of old Daddy in England. Thou 
art a queer fellow, and I am afraid there's nothing 
to be made of thee. 

Stanhope. I am afraid so, too. 

Englishman. Well, then, good-night to you ; you 
have no objection, I hope, to my being drunk 
to-night, which I certainly will be? 

Stanhope. Not in the least; nor to your being 



234 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

sick to-morrow, which you as certainly will be ; and 
so good-night too. 

You will observe, that I have not put into your 
mouth those good arguments, which upon such an 
occasion would, I am sure, occur to you; as piety 
and affection towards me ; regard and friendship for 
Mr. Harte; respect for your own moral character, 
and for all the relative duties of man, son, pupil and 
citizen. Such solid arguments would be thrown 
away upon such shallow puppies. Leave them to 
their ignorance, and to their dirty, disgraceful vices. 
They will severely feel the effects of them, when it 
will be too late. Without the comfortable refuge 
of learning, and with all the sickness and pains of a 
ruined stomach, and a rotten carcass, if they happen 
to arrive at old age, it is an uneasy and ignominious 
one. The ridicule which such fellows endeavor to 
throw upon those who are not like them is, in the 
opinion of all men of sense, the most authentic 
panegyric. Go on, then, my dear child, in the way 
you are in, only for a year and a half more ; that is 
all I ask of you. After that, I promise that you 
shall be your own master, and that I will pretend 
to no other title than that of your best and truest 
friend. You shall receive advice, but no orders, 
from me; and in truth you will want no other 
advice, but such as youth and inexperience must 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 235 

necessarily require. You shall certainly want noth 
ing that is requisite, not only for your conveniency, 
but also for your pleasures, which I always desire 
should be gratified. You will suppose that I mean 
the pleasures d'un honnete homme. [Same date.] 

A PANEGYRIST. If I had faith in philters and 
love potions, I should suspect that you had given Sir 
Charles Williams some, by the manner in which he 
speaks of you, not only to me, but to everybody else. 
I will not repeat to you what he says of the extent 
and correctness of your knowledge, as it might 
either make you vain, or persuade you that you had 
already enough of what nobody can have too much. 
You will easily imagine how many questions I asked, 
and how narrowly I sifted him upon your subject; 
he answered me, and I dare say with truth, just as 
I could have wished. [Sept. 22, 1749.] 

NECESSITY OF ATTENTION. Sir Charles Wil 
liams told me then, that in company you were fre 
quently most provokingly inattentive, absent, and 
distrait. That you came into a room and presented 
yourself very awkwardly; that at table you con 
stantly threw down knives, forks, napkins, bread, 
etc., and that you neglected your person and dress to 
a degree unpardonable at any age, and much more 
so at yours. 



236 



CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 



DISTRACTION AND INATTENTION. I know no one 
thing more offensive to a company than that inatten 
tion and distraction. It is showing them the utmost 
contempt; and people never forgive contempt. No 
man is distrait with the man he fears or the woman 
he loves; which is a proof that every man can get 
the better of that distraction, when he thinks it 
worth his while to do so ; and, take my word for it, 
it is always worth his while. For my own part, I 
would rather be in company with a dead man than 
with an absent one ; for if the dead man gives me no 
pleasure, at least he shows me no contempt ; whereas 
the absent man, silently indeed, but very plainly, 
tells me that he does not think me worth his atten 
tion. Besides, can an absent man make any observa 
tions upon the characters, customs, and manners of 
the company? No. He may be in the best com 
panies all his lifetime (if they will admit him, which, 
if I were they, I Would not), and never be one jot 
the wiser. I never will converse with an absent 
man ; one may as well talk to a deaf one. It is, in 
truth, a practical blunder to address ourselves to a 
man who, we see plainly, neither hears, minds, nor 
understands us. Moreover, I aver that no man is, 
in any degree, fit for either business or conversation 
who cannot and does not direct and command his 
attention to the present object, be that what it will. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 237 

You know, by experience, that I grudge no expense 
in your education, but I will positively not keep you 
a flapper. You may read, in Dr. Swift, the descrip 
tion of these flappers, and the use they were of to 
their friends. 

DANCING. Learn to dance, not so much for the 
sake of dancing, as for coming into a room, 
and presenting yourself genteelly and gracefully. 
Women, whom you ought to endeavor to . please, 
cannot forgive a vulgar and awkward air and ges 
ture ; il leur faut du brillant. The generality of men 
are pretty like them, and are equally taken by the 
same exterior graces. [Same date.] 

FINERY UNFIT FOR THE OLD. I am very glad 
that you have received the diamond buckles safe: 
all I desire in return for them is, that they may be 
buckled upon your feet, and that your stockings may 
not hide them. I should be sorry you were an 
egregious fop; but I protest that, of the two, I 
would rather have you a fop than a sloven. I think 
negligence in my own dress, even at my age, when 
certainly I expect no advantages from my dress, 
would be indecent with regard to others. I have 
done with fine clothes; but I will have my plain 
clothes fit me, and made like other people's. In the 



238 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTERS. 

evenings I recommend to you the company of 
women of fashion, who have a right to attention, 
and will be paid it. Their company will smooth 
your manners, and give you a habit of attention and 
respect ; of which you will find the advantage among 
men. 

My plan for you, from the beginning, has been 
to make you shine equally in the learned and in the 
polite world ; the former part is almost completed to 
my wishes, and will, I am persuaded, in a little time 
more be quite so. The latter part is still in your 
power to complete ; and I flatter myself that you will 
do it, or else the former part will avail you very 
little; especially in your department, where the 
exterior address and graces do half the business; 
they must be the harbingers of your merit, or your 
merit will be very coldly received : all can and do 
judge of the former, few of the latter. 

Mr. Harte tells me that you have grown very 
much since your illness; if you get up to five feet 
ten, or even nine inches, your figure will, probably, 
be a good one. [Same date.] 

MIS-SENT LETTERS. Our letters go, at best, so 
irregularly, and so often miscarry totally, that, for 
greater security, I repeat the same things. So, 
though I acknowledge by last post Mr. Harte's 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 239 

letter of the 8th September, N. S., I acknowledge it 
again by this to you.* [Same date.] 

BEND TO CEREMONY. Apropos of the Pope, 
remember to be presented to him before you leave 
Rome, and go through the necessary ceremonies for 
it, whether of kissing his slipper or his breech ; for 
I would never deprive myself of anything that I 
wanted to do or see by refusing to comply with an 
established custom. When I was in Catholic coun 
tries, I never declined kneeling in their churches at 
the elevation, nor elsewhere, when the host went by. 
It is a complaisance due to the custom of the place, 
and by no means, as some silly people have imag 
ined, an implied approbation of their doctrine. Bod 
ily attitudes and situations are things so very indif 
ferent in themselves, that I would quarrel with 
nobody about them. It may, indeed, be improper 
for Mr. Harte to pay that tribute of complaisance, 
upon account of his character. [Same date.] 

THE VULGAR MAN TRIFLES VULGARISM. A 
vulgar man is captious and jealous; eager and impet 
uous about trifles. He suspects himself to be 
slighted, thinks everything that is said meant at 
him; if the company happens to laugh, he is per- 

* This little note is inserted to show that Lord Chesterfield's 
repetitions were not unknown to himself. The most flagrant 
we have omitted. 



240 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

suaded they laugh at him ; he grows angry and testy, 
says something very impertinent, and draws himself 
into a scrape, by showing what he calls a proper 
spirit, and asserting himself. A man of fashion 
does not suppose himself to be either the sole or 
principal object of the thoughts, looks, or words of 
the company; and never suspects that he is either 
slighted or laughed at, unless he is conscious that 
he deserves it. And if (which very seldom happens) 
the company is absurd or ill-bred enough to do 
either, he does not care twopence, unless the insult 
be so gross and plain as to require satisfaction of 
another kind. As he is above trifles, he is never 
vehement and eager about them ; and, wherever they 
are concerned, rather acquiesces than wrangles. A 
vulgar man's conversation always savors strongly 
of the lowness of his education and company. It 
turns chiefly 'upon his domestic affairs, his servants, 
the excellent order he keeps in his own family, and 
the little anecdotes of the neighborhood; all which 
he relates with emphasis, as interesting matters. He 
is a man gossip. 

Vulgarism in language is the next and distin 
guishing characteristic of bad company and a bad 
education. A man of fashion avoids nothing with 
more care than that. Proverbial expressions, and 
trite sayings, are. the flowers of the rhetoric of a 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 241 

vulgar man. Would he say, that men differ in their 
tastes, he both supports and adorns that opinion, by 
the good old saying, as he respectfully calls it, that 
what is one man's meat is another man's poison. If 
anybody attempts being smart, as he calls it, upon 
him, he gives them tit for tat, ay, that he does. He 
has always some favorite word for the time being, 
which, for the sake of using often, he commonly 
abuses. Such as vastly angry, vastly kind, vastly 
handsome, and vastly ugly. Even his pronuncia 
tion of proper words carries the mark of the beast 
along with it. He calls the earth yearth; he is 
obleiged* not obliged to you. He goes to wards, 
and not towards such a place. He sometimes affects 
hard words, by way of ornament, which he always 
mangles like a learned woman. A man of fashion 
never has recourse to proverbs and vulgar aphor 
isms: uses neither favorite words nor hard words, 
but takes great care to speak very correctly and 
grammatically, and to pronounce properly; that is, 
according to the usage of the best companies. [Sept. 

27, 1 7 '49-} 

LEFT-HANDEDNESS. An awkward address, 
ungraceful attitudes and actions, and a certain left- 

* As indeed did George III. teste the anecdote of Kemble: 
"Mr. Kemble, obleige me with a pinch of snuff." "It would 
become your Majesty's royal mouth better to say oblige." 



242 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

handedness (if I may use that word) loudly proclaim 
low education and low company; for it is impos 
sible to suppose that a man can have frequented 
good company without having catched something, at 
least, of their air and motions. A new-raised man 
is distinguished in a regiment by his awkwardness; 
but he must be impenetrably dull if, in a month or 
two's time, he cannot perform at least the common 
manual exercise, and look like a soldier. The very 
accoutrements of a man of fashion are grievous 
incumbrances to a vulgar man. He is at a loss what 
to do with his hat, when it is not upon his head; 
his cane (if unfortunately he wears one) is at per 
petual war with every cup of tea or coffee he drinks ; 
destroys them first, and then accompanies them in 
their fall. 

A NOBLE EASE AND GRACE. Do not imagine 
that these accomplishments are only useful with 
women; they are much more so with men. In a 
public assembly, what an advantage has a graceful 
speaker, with genteel motions, a handsome figure, 
and a liberal air, over one, who shall speak full as 
much sense, but destitute of these ornaments! In 
business, how prevalent are the graces, how detri 
mental is the want of them! By the help of these 
I have known some men refuse favors less offen- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 243 

sively than others granted them. The utility of them 
in courts and negotiations is inconceivable. You 
gain the hearts, and consequently the secrets, of nine 
in ten that you have to do with, in spite even of 
their prudence ; which will, nine times in ten, be the 
dupe of their hearts and of their senses. Consider 
the importance of these things as they deserve, and 
you will not lose one moment in the pursuit of them. 
[Same date.] 

THE FRIBBLE AND THE VIRTUOSO. No piping 
nor fiddling, I beseech you; no days lost in poring 
upon almost imperceptible intaglios and cameos: and 
do not become a virtuoso of small wares. Form a 
taste of painting, sculpture, and architecture, if you 
please, by a careful examination of the works of the 
best ancient and modern artists; those are liberal 
arts, and a real taste and knowledge of them become 
a man of fashion very well. But, beyond certain 
bounds, the man of taste ends, and the frivolous 
virtuoso begins. 

Your friend Mendes, the good Samaritan, dined 
with me yesterday. He has more good nature and 
generosity, than parts. However, I will show him 
all the civilities that his kindness to you so justly 
deserves ; he tells me that you are taller than I am, 
which I am very glad of. I desire you may excel 



CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 



me in everything else too ; and, far from repining, I 
shall rejoice at your superiority. [Same date.] 

FREQUENT LETTERS. Indeed the irregularity 
and negligence of the post provoke me, as they break 
the thread of the accounts I want to receive from 
you, and of the instructions and orders which I 
send you almost every post. Of these last twenty 
posts, I am sure that I have wrote eighteen, either 
to you or to Mr. Harte, and it does not appear, by 
your letter, that all, or even any of my letters have 
been received. I desire, for the future, that both 
you and Mr. Harte will constantly, in your letters, 
mention the dates of mine. [Oct. 2, 1749.] 

PROPER EXPENSES TO BE PAID. As to the 
expense which you mention, I do not regard it in 
the least; from your infancy to this day, I never 
grudged any expense in your education, and still 
less do it now, that it is become more important and 
decisive. I attend to the objects of your expenses, 
but not to the sums. I will certainly not pay one 
shilling for your losing your nose, your money, or 
your reason ; that is, I will not contribute to women, 
gaming, and drinking. But I will most cheerfully 
supply, not only every necessary, but every decent 
expense you can make. I do not care what the best 
masters cost. I would have you as well dressed, 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 245 

lodged, and attended, as any reasonable man of 
fashion in his travels. I would have you have that 
pocket-money that should enable you to make the 
proper expense, d'un honnete homme. In short, I 
bar no expense, that has neither vice nor folly for 
its object; and under those two reasonable restric 
tions, draw and welcome. [Same date.] 

A PORTRAIT. So many of my letters have mis 
carried, and I know so little which, that I am forced 
to repeat the same thing over and over again event 
ually. This is one. I have wrote twice to Mr. 
Harte, to have your picture drawn in miniature, 
while you were at Venice, and to send it me in a 
letter: it is all one to me, whether in enamel or in 
water-colors, provided it is but very like you. I 
would have you drawn exactly as you are, and in 
no whimsical dress. I lay more stress upon the 
likeness of the picture, than upon the taste and skill 
of the painter. If this be not already done, I desire 
that you will have it done forthwith, before you 
leave Venice ; and enclose it in a letter to me ; which 
letter, for greater security, I would have you desire 
Sir James Gray to enclose in his packet to the office; 
as I, for the same reason, send this under his cover. 
If the picture be done upon vellum, it will be the 
most portable. Send me, at the same time, a thread 



246 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

or silk of your own length, exactly. I am solicitous 
about your figure; convinced, by a thousand 
instances, that a good one is a real advantage. 
Mens sana in corpore sano, is the first and greatest 
blessing. I would add, et pulchro, to complete it. 
May you have that, and every other! Adieu. 
[Same date.~\ 

A CENTURY AGO. The papal power, founded 
originally upon the ignorance and superstition of 
mankind, extended by the weakness of some princes, 
and the ambition of others; is declining of late, in 
proportion as knowledge has increased; and owing 
its present precarious security not to the religion. 
the affection, or the fear, of the temporal powers, 
but to their jealousy of each other. The Pope's 
excommunications are no longer dreaded ; his indul 
gences little solicited, and sell very cheap; and his 
territories, formidable to no power, are coveted by 
many, and will, most undoubtedly, within a century, 
be scantled out among the great powers, who have 
now a footing in Italy; whenever they can agree 
upon the division of the bear's skin. [Oct. p, 



THE JESUITS. They have, by turns, been ban 
ished, and with infamy, almost every country in 
Europe; and have always found means to be 
restored, even with triumph. In short, I know no 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 247 

government in the world that is carried on upon 
such deep principles of policy, I will not add moral 
ity. Converse with them, frequent them, court 
them ; but know them. 

Inform yourself too of that infernal court, the 
inquisition; which, though not so considerable at 
Rome as in Spain and Portugal, will, however, be 
a good sample to you of what the villainy of some 
men can contrive, the folly of others receive, and 
both together establish ; in spite of the first natural 
principles of reason, justice, and equity. [Same 
date. ] 

MILITARY STUDY. Go with some engineer or old 
officer, and view, with care, the real fortifications of 
some strong place ; and you will get a clearer idea of 
bastions, half -moons, horn- works, ravelins, glacis, 
etc., than all the masters in the world could give 
you upon paper. And thus much I would, by all 
means, have you know of both civil and military 
architecture. [Oct. 17, 



A FATHER'S OBJECT. DEAR BOY: From the 
time that you have had life, it has been the principal 
and favorite object of mine, to make you as perfect 
as the imperfections of human nature will allow; 
in this view I have grudged no pains nor expense 



248 



CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 



in your education; convinced that education, more 
than nature, is the cause of that great difference 
which we see in the characters of men. While you 
were a child, I endeavored to form your heart habit 
ually to virtue and honor, before your understanding- 
was capable of showing you their beauty and utility. 
Those principles, which you then got like your 
grammar rules, only by rote, are now, I am per 
suaded, fixed and confirmed by reason. And indeed 
they are so plain and clear, that they require but a 
very moderate degree of understanding, either to 
comprehend or practice them. Lord Shaftesbury 
says, very prettily, that he would be virtuous for his 
own sake, though nobody were to know it; as he 
would be clean for his own sake, though nobody 
were to see him. I have therefore, since you have 
had the use of your reason, never written to you 
upon those subjects ; they speak best for themselves ; 
and I should, now, just as soon think of warning 
you gravely not to fall into the dirt or the fire, as 
into dishonor or vice. [Nov. 3, 1/49.] 

GOOD-BREEDING. A friend of yours and mine 
has very justly defined good-breeding to be the 
result of much good-sense, some good-nature, and a 
little self-denial for the sake of others, and with a 
view to obtain the same indulgence from them. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 249 

Taking this for granted (as I think it cannot be 
disputed), it is astonishing to me, that anybody, 
who has good- sense and good-nature (and I believe 
you have both), can essentially fail in good-breeding. 
As to the modes of it, indeed, they vary according 
to persons, places, and circumstances; and are only 
to be acquired by observation and experience; but 
the substance of it is everywhere and eternally the 
same. Good-manners are, to particular societies, 
what good-morals are to society in general their 
cement and their security. And as laws are enacted 
to enforce good-morals, or at least to prevent the 
ill-effects of bad ones, so there are certain rules of 
civility, universally implied and received, to enforce 
good-manners, and punish bad ones. And indeed 
there seems to be less difference, both between the 
crimes and punishments, than at first one would 
imagine. The immoral man, who invades another's 
property, is justly hanged for it; and the ill-bred 
man, who, by his ill-manners, invades and disturbs 
{ the quiet comforts of private life, is by common 
consent as justly banished from society. Mutual 
complaisances, attentions, and sacrifices of little con 
veniences, are as natural an implied compact between 
civilized people, as protection and obedience are 
between kings and subjects ; whoever, in either case, 
violates that compact, justly forfeits all advantages 



250 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

arising from it. For my own part, I really think 
that, next to the consciousness of doing a good 
action, that of doing a civil one is the most pleasing ; 
and the epithet which I should covet the most, next 
to that of Aristides, would be that of well-bred. 
[Same date.] 

MIXED COMPANY LEARNING PEDANTS. In 
mixed companies, whoever is admitted to make part 
of them is, for the time at least, supposed to be upon 
a footing of equality with the rest; and, conse 
quently, as there is no one principal object of awe 
and respect, people are apt to take a greater latitude 
in their behavior, and to be less upon their guard; 
and so they may, provided it be within certain 
bounds, which are upon no occasion to be trans 
gressed. But, upon these occasions, though no one 
is entitled to distinguished marks of respect, every 
one claims, and very justly, every mark of civility 
and good-breeding. Ease is allowed, but careless 
ness and negligence are strictly forbidden. If a 
man accosts you, and talks to you ever so dully or 
frivolously, it is worse than rudeness, it is brutality, 
to show him, by a manifest inattention to what he 
says, that you think him a fool or a blockhead, and 
not worth hearing. It is much more so with regard 
to women; who, of whatever rank they are, are 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 251 

entitled, in consideration of their sex, not only to 
an attentive, but an officious good-breeding from 
men. 

NOT TOO MUCH FAMILIARITY. The most famil 
iar and intimate habitudes, connections, and friend 
ships require a degree of good-breeding both to pre 
serve and cement them. If ever a man and his wife, 
or a man and his mistress, who pass nights as well 
as days together, absolutely lay aside all good-breed 
ing, their intimacy will soon degenerate into a coarse 
familiarity, infallibly productive of contempt or dis 
gust. The best of us have our bad sides; and it is 
as imprudent, as it is ill-bred, to exhibit them. I 
shall certainly not use ceremony with you ; it would 
be misplaced between us: but I shall certainly 
observe that degree of good-breeding with you, 
which is, in the first place, decent, and which, I am 
sure, is absolutely necessary to make us like one 
another's company long. 

The deepest learning, without good-breeding, is 
unwelcome and tiresome pedantry, and of use 
nowhere but in a man's own closet ; and consequently 
of little or no use at all. 

A man, who is not perfectly well-bred, is unfit 
for good company, and unwelcome in it ; will conse 
quently dislike it soon, afterward renounce it ; and be 



252 



CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 



reduced to solitude, or, what is worse, low and bad 
company. 

A man, who is not well-bred, is full as unfit for 
business as for company. 

Make then, my dear child, I conjure you, good- 
breeding the great object of your thoughts and 
actions at least half the day. Observe carefully the 
behavior and manners of those who are distin 
guished by their good-breeding; imitate, nay, 
endeavor to excel, that you may at least reach them ; 
and be convinced that good-breeding is, to all 
worldly qualifications, what charity is to all Chris 
tian virtues. Observe how it adorns merit, and how 
often it covers the want of it. May you wear it to 
adorn, and not to cover you ! Adieu. [Same date.~\ 

PERSONAL GRACES. These personal graces are 
of very great consequence. They anticipate the sen 
timents, before merit can engage the understanding; 
they captivate the heart, and gave rise, I believe, to 
the extravagant notions of charms and philters. 
Their efforts were so surprising, that they were 
reckoned supernatural. The most graceful and best- 
bred men, and the handsomest and genteelest 
women, give the most philters; and, as I verily 
believe, without the least assistance of the Devil. 
Pray be not only well dressed, but shining in your 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 253 

dress; let it have du brillant: I do not mean by a 
clumsy load of gold and silver, but by the taste and 
fashion of it. Women like and require it; they 
think it an attention due to them. [Nov. 14, 1749.] 

DANCING YOUTH. You danced pretty well here, 
and ought to dance very well before you come home ; 
for what one is obliged to do sometimes, one ought 
to be able to do well. Besides, la belle danse donne 
du brillant a un jeune homme. And you should 
endeavor to shine. A calm serenity, negative merit 
and graces, do not become your age. You should 
be alerte, adroit, vif; be wanted, talked of, impa 
tiently expected, and unwillingly parted with in com 
pany. I should be glad to hear half a dozen women 
of fashion say : "Ou est done le petit Stanhope? Que 
ne vient-ilf II faut avouer qu'il est aimable." All 
this I do not mean singly with regard to women as 
the principal object; but with regard to men, and 
with a view of your making yourself considerable. 
For, with very small variations, the same things 
that please women please men. [Same date.] 

ILL-BREEDING. My last was upon the subject of 
good-breeding; but, I think, it rather set before you 
the unfitness and disadvantages of ill-breeding, than 
the utility and necessity of good ; it was rather neg 
ative than positive. This, therefore, shall go fur- 



254 



CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 



ther, and explain to you the necessity, which you, 
of all people living, lie under, not only of being 
positively and actively well-bred, but of shining 
and distinguishing yourself by your good-breeding. 
Consider your own situation in every particular, and 
judge whether it is not essentially your interest, by 
your own good-breeding to others, to secure theirs 
to you ; and that, let me assure you, is the only way 
of doing it ; for people will repay, and with interest 
too, inattention with inattention, neglect with 
neglect, and ill-manners with worse; which may 
engage you in very disagreeable affairs. In the next 
place your profession requires, more than any other, 
the nicest and most distinguished good-breeding. 
You will negotiate with very little success, if you 
do not, previously, by your manners, conciliate and 
engage the affections of those with whom you are 
to negotiate. Can you ever get into the confidence 
and the secrets of the courts where you may happen 
to reside, if you have not those pleasing, insinuating 
manners, which alone can procure them ? Upon my 
word, I do not say too much, when I say that supe 
rior good-breeding, insinuating manners, and gen 
teel address are half your business. Your knowledge 
will have but very little influence upon the mind, if 
your manners prejudice the heart against you ; but, 
on the other hand, how easily will you dupe the 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 255 

understanding, where you have first engaged the 
heart? and hearts are, by no means, to be gained 
by that mere common civility which everybody prac 
tises. Bowing again to those who bow to you, 
answering dryly those who speak to you, and saying 
nothing offensive to anybody, is such negative good- 
breeding that it is only not being a brute ; as it would 
be but a very poor commendation of any man's 
cleanliness to say that he did not stink. It is an 
active, cheerful, officious, seducing good-breeding 
that must gain you the good-will and first senti 
ments of the men, and the affections of the women. 
You must carefully watch and attend to their pas 
sions, their tastes, their little humors and weak 
nesses, and aller ait devant. You must do it, at the 
same time, with alacrity and empressement, and not 
as if you graciously condescended to humor their 
weaknesses. 

For instance; suppose you invited anybody to 
dine or sup with you, you ought to recollect if you 
had observed that they had any favorite dish, and 
take care to provide it for them : and, when it came, 
you should say: "You seemed to me, at such and 
such a place, to give this dish a preference, and there 
fore I ordered it. This is the wine that I observed 
you liked, and therefore I procured some" The 
more trifling these things are, the more they prove 



256 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEES. 

your attention for the person, and are consequently 
the more engaging. Consult your own breast, and 
recollect how these little attentions, when shown 
you by others, flatter that degree of self-love and 
vanity, from which no man living is free. Reflect 
how they incline and attract you to that person, and 
how you are propitiated afterward to all which that 
person says or does. The same causes will have 
the same effects in your favor. 

ATTENTIONS TO LADIES. Women, in a great 
degree, establish or destroy every man's reputation 
of good-breeding ; you must, therefore, in a manner, 
overwhelm them with the attentions of which I 
have spoken; they are used to them, they expect 
them: and, to do them justice, they commonly 
requite them. You must be sedulous, and rather 
over officious than under, in procuring them their 
coaches, their chairs, their conveniences in public 
places ; not see what you should not see ; and rather 
assist, where you cannot help seeing. Opportunities 
of showing these attentions present themselves per 
petually; but if they do not, make them. As Ovid 
advises his lover, when he sits in the circus near his 
mistress, to wipe the dust off her neck, even if there 
be none. Si nullus, tamen excute nullum. Your 
conversation with women should always be respect- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 257 

ful; but, at the same time, enjoue, and always 
addressed to their vanity. Everything you say or 
do should convince them of the regard you have 
(whether you have it or not) for their beauty, their 
wit, or their merit. Men have possibly as much 
vanity as women, though of another kind; and both 
art and good-breeding require that, instead of mor 
tifying, you should please and flatter it, by words 
and looks of approbation. Suppose (which is by no 
means improbable) that, at your return to England, 
I should place you near the person of some one of 
the royal family; in that situation, good-breeding, 
engaging address, adorned with all the graces that 
dwell at courts, would very probably make you a 
favorite, and from a favorite, a minister; but all 
the knowledge and learning in the world, without 
them, never would. The penetration of princes 
seldom goes deeper than the surface. It is the 
exterior that always engages their hearts; and I 
would never advise you to give yourself much 
trouble about their understandings. Princes in gen 
eral (I mean those P or phyro genets who are born 
and bred in purple) are about the pitch of women; 
bred up like them, and are to be addressed and 
gained in the same manner. They always see, they 
seldom weigh. Your lustre, not your solidity, must 
take them; your inside will afterward support and 



258 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

secure what your outside has acquired. With weak 
people (and they undoubtedly are three parts in 
four of mankind) good-breeding, address, and man 
ners are everything; they can go no deeper; but let 
me assure you that they are a great deal, even with 
people of the best understandings. Where the eyes 
are not pleased, the heart is not flattered, the mind 
will be apt to stand out. Be this right or wrong, 1 
confess I am so made myself. Awkwardness and 
ill-breeding shock me, to that degree, that where 
I meet with them, I cannot find in my heart to 
inquire into the intrinsic merit of that person; I 
hastily decide in myself that he can have none; and 
am not sure I should not even be sorry to know that 
he had any. I often paint you in my imagination, in 
your present lotananza; and, while I view you in 
the light of ancient and modern learning, useful 
and ornamental knowledge, I am charmed with the 
prospect ; but when I view you in another light, and 
represent you awkward, ungraceful, ill-bred, with 
vulgar air and manners, shambling towards me with 
inattention and distractions, I shall not pretend to 
describe to you what I feel ; but will do as a skilful 
painter did formerly, draw a veil before the coun 
tenance of the father. 

I dare say you know already enough of archi 
tecture, to know that the Tuscan is the strongest 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 259 

and most solid of all the orders; but, at the same 
time, it is the coarsest and clumsiest of them. Its 
solidity does extremely well for the foundation and 
base floor of a great edifice; but, if the whole build 
ing be Tuscan, it will attract no eyes, it will stop no 
passengers, it will invite no interior examination; 
people will take it for granted that the finishing 
and furnishing cannot be worth seeing, where the 
front is so unadorned and clumsy. But if, upon the 
solid Tuscan foundation, the Doric, the Ionic, and 
the Corinthian orders, rise gradually with all their 
beauty, proportions, and ornaments, the fabric seizes 
the most incurious eye, and stops the most careless 
passenger; who solicits admission as a favor, nay, 
often purchases it. Just so will it fare with your 
little fabric, which, at present, I fear, has more of 
the Tuscan than the Corinthian order. You must 
absolutely change the whole front, or nobody will 
knock at the door. The several parts, which must 
compose this new front, are elegant, easy, natural, 
superior good-breeding; an engaging address; gen 
teel motions; an insinuating softness in your looks, 
words, and actions ; a spruce, lively air, and fashion 
able dress; and all the glitter that a young fellow 
should have. [No date.] 

LEARNING AND POLITENESS. I have often as 
serted, that the profoundest learning, and the polit- 



260 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

est manners, were by no means incompatible, though 
so seldom found united in the same person; and I 
have engaged myself to exhibit you, as a proof of 
the truth of this assertion. Should you, instead of 
that, happen to disprove me, the concern indeed will 
be mine, but the loss will be yours. Lord Boling- 
broke is a strong instance on my side of the question ; 
he joins, to the deepest erudition, the most elegant 
politeness and good-breeding that ever any courtier 
and man of the world was adorned with. And Pope 
very justly called him All Accomplished St. John, 
with regard to his knowledge and his manners. He 
had, it is true, his faults; which proceeded from 
unbounded ambition and impetuous passions; but 
they have now subsided by age and experience; and 
I can wish you nothing better than to be, what he 
is now, without being what he has been formerly. 
His address pre-engages, his eloquence persuades, 
and his knowledge informs all who approach him. 
Upon the whole, I do desire, and insist, that, from 
after dinner till you go to bed, you make good- 
breeding, address, and manners your serious object 
and your only care. Without them, you will be 
nobody; with them, you may be anything. [No date.] 

PROPER DISTINCTION. Every rational being (I 
take it for granted) proposes to himself some object 
more important than mere respiration and obscure 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 261 

animal existence. He desires to distinguish himself 
among his fellow-creatures; and alicui negotio in- 
tentus, prceclari facinoris, aut artis bonce, famam 
quarit. Caesar, when embarking, in a storm, said, 
that it was not necessary he should live; but that 
it was absolutely necessary he should get to the 
place to which he was going. And Pliny leaves 
mankind this only alternative ; either of doing what 
deserves to be written, or of writing what deserves 
to be read. As for those who do neither, eorum 
vitam mortemque juxta astumo; quoniam de utraque 
sitctur. You have, I am convinced, one or both of 
these objects in view; but you must know, and use 
the necessary means, or your pursuit will be vain 
and frivolous. In either case, capere est principium 
et fans; but it is by no means all. That knowledge 
must be adorned, it must have lustre as well as 
weight, or it will be oftener taken for lead than for 
gold. Knowledge you have, and will have; I am 
easy upon that article. But my business, as your 
friend, is not to compliment you upon what you 
have, but to tell you with freedom what you want; 
and I must tell you plainly, that I fear you want 
everything but knowledge. [Nov. 24, 



STYLE. It is not every understanding that can 
judge of matter ; but every ear can and does judge, 



262 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

more or less, of style ; and were I either to speak or 
write to the public, I should prefer moderate matter, 
adorned with all the beauties and elegancies of style, 
to the strongest matter in the world, ill worded and 
ill delivered. Your business is, negotiation abroad, 
and oratory in the House of Commons at home. 
What figure can you make in either case, if your 
style be inelegant, I do not say bad ? Imagine your 
self writing an office-letter to a secretary of state, 
which letter is to be read by the whole cabinet coun 
cil, and very possibly afterward, laid before parlia 
ment ; any one barbarism, solecism, or vulgarism in 
it would, in a very few days, circulate through the 
whole kingdom, to your disgrace and ridicule. For 
instance ; I will suppose you had written the follow 
ing letter from The Hague to the secretary of state 
at London, and leave you to suppose the conse 
quences of it : 

"Mv LORD, I had , last night, the honor of your 
lordship's letter, of the 24th; and will set about 
doing the orders contained therein; and if so be 
that I can get that affair done by the next post, I 
will not fail for to give your lordship an account 
of it by next post. I have told the French minister 
as how, that if that affair be not soon concluded, 
your lordship would think it all long of him; and 
that he must have neglected for to have wrote to 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 2G3 

his court about it. I must beg leave to put your 
lordship in mind, as how, that I am now full three 
quarters in arrear; and if so be that I do not very 
soon receive at least one half year, I shall cut a very 
bad figure; for this here place is very dear. I shall 
be vastly beholden to your lordship for that there 
mark of your favor; and so I rest, or remain, 
Yours," etc. 

You will tell me, possibly, that this is a cari- 
catura of an illiberal and inelegant style; I will 
admit it; but assure you, at the same time, that a 
dispatch with less than half these faults would blow 
you up forever. It is by no means sufficient to be 
free from faults in speaking and writing ; you must 
do both correctly and elegantly. [Same date.] 

MISPRONUNCIATION AND MISUSE OF WORDS. A 
person of the House of Commons, speaking two 
years ago upon naval affairs, asserted, that we had 
then the finest navy upon the face of the yearth. 
This happy mixture of blunder and vulgarism, you 
may easily imagine, was matter of immediate ridi 
cule; but I can assure you that it continues so still, 
and will be remembered as long as he lives and 
speaks. Another, speaking in defence of a gentle 
man, upon whom a censure was moved, happily said 
that he thought that gentleman was more liable to 



264 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

be thanked and rewarded, than censured. You 
know, I presume, that liable can never be used in a 
good sense. [Same date.] 

BOOKS FOR ORATORY. You have read Quintilian 
the best book in the world to form an orator ; pray 
read Cicero, de Oratore the best book in the world 
to finish one. Translate and retranslate, from and 
to Latin, Greek, and English; make yourself a pure 
and elegant English style: it requires nothing but 
application. I do not find that God has made you a 
poet ; and I am very glad that he has not ; therefore, 
for God's sake, make yourself an orator, which you 
may do. Though I still call you a boy, I consider 
you no longer as such ; and when I reflect upon the 
prodigious quantity of manure that has been laid 
upon you, I expect you should produce more at 
eighteen, than uncultivated soils do at eight and 
twenty. [Same dale.] 

CHESTERFIELD A CENSOR-CRITIC. While the 
Roman republic flourished, while glory was pursued 
and virtue practised, and while even little irregu 
larities and indecencies, not cognizable by law, were, 
however, not thought below the public care, censors 
were established, discretionally to supply, in par 
ticular cases, the inevitable defects of the law, which 
must, and can only be general. This employment 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 265 

I assume to myself, with regard to your little repub 
lic, leaving the legislative power entirely to Mr. 
Harte; I hope, and believe, that he will seldom, or 
rather never, have occasion- to exert his supreme 
authority ; and I do by no means suspect you of any 
faults that may require that interposition. But, to 
tell you the plain truth, I am of opinion, that my 
censorial power will not be useless to you, nor a 
sinecure to me. The sooner you make it both, the 
better for us both. I can now exercise this employ 
ment only upon hearsay, or, at most, written evi 
dence; and therefore shall exercise it with great 
lenity, and some diffidence; but when we meet, and 
that I can form my judgment upon ocular and 
auricular evidence, I shall no more let the least 
impropriety, indecorum, or irregularity pass uncen- 
sured, than my predecessor Cato did. I shall read 
you with the attention of a critic, not with the par 
tiality of an author : different in this respect, indeed, 
from most critics, that I shall seek for faults only 
to correct, and not to expose them. [Nov. 26, 



NICKNAMES. The little defects in manners, elo 
cution, address, and air (and even of figure, though 
very unjustly), are the objects of ridicule, and the 
causes of nicknames. You cannot imagine the grief 
it would give me, and the prejudice it would do you, 



266 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

if, by way of distinguishing you from others of your 
name, you should happen to be called Muttering 
Stanhope, Absent Stanhope, Ill-bred Stanhope, or 
Awkward, Left-legged Stanhope; therefore, take 
great care to put it out of the power of ridicule 
itself to give you any of these ridiculous epithets; 
for, if you get one, it will stick to you like the 
envenomed shirt. The very first day that I see you, 
I shall be able to tell you, and certainly shall tell 
you, what degree of danger you are in ; and I hope 
that my admonitions, as censor, may prevent the 
censures of the public. [Same date.~\ 

YOUNG STANHOPE'S PORTRAIT. I send you here 
a portrait, drawn by a lady at Venice, by my orders : 
"In compliance to your orders, I have examined 
young Stanhope carefully, and think I have pene 
trated into his character. This is his portrait, which 
I take to be a faithful one. His face is pleasing, his 
countenance sensible, and his look clever. His fig 
ure is at present rather too square ; but if he shoots 
up, which he has matter and years for, he will then 
be of a good size. He has, undoubtedly, a great 
fund of acquired knowledge; I am assured that he 
is master of the learned languages. As for French, 
I know he speaks it perfectly, and I am told Ger 
man, as well. The questions he asks are judicious, 
and denote a thirst after knowledge. I cannot say 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 267 

that he appears equally desirous of pleasing, for he 
seems to neglect attentions and the graces. He does 
not come into a room well, nor has he that easy, 
noble carriage, which would be proper for him. It 
is true, he is as yet young and inexperienced; one 
may therefore reasonably hope that his exercises, 
which he has not yet gone through, and good com 
pany, in which he is still a novice, will polish, and 
give all that is wanting to complete him. What 
seems necessary for that purpose, would be an 
attachment to some woman of fashion, and who 
knows the world. Some Madame de L'Ursay would 
be the proper person. In short, I can assure you 
that he has everything which Lord Chesterfield can 
wish him, excepting that carriage, those graces, and 
the style used in the best company; which he will 
certainly acquire in time, and by frequenting the 
polite world. If he should not, it would be great 
pity, since he so well deserves to possess them. You 
know their importance. My lord, his father, knows 
it too, he being master of them all. To conclude, if 
little Stanhope acquires the graces, I promise you 
he will make his way; if not, he will be stopped in 
a course, the goal of which he might attain with 
honor."* 

* We retain this as a picture of the morals of the time, and 
to satisfy the reader's curiosity as to the subject of so much 
care on the part of his father. 



268 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

MAN UNRATIONAL, YET ALL MEN THE SAME IN 
FEELING. Those who suppose that men in general 
act rationally, because they are called rational crea 
tures, know very little of the world ; and if they act 
themselves upon that supposition, will, nine times 
in ten, find themselves grossly mistaken. That man 
is, animal bipes, implume, risibile, I entirely agree; 
but for the rationale, I can only allow it him in 
actu primo (to talk logic), and seldom in actu 
secundo. Thus, the speculative, cloistered pedant, in 
his solitary cell, forms systems of things, as they 
should be, not as they are; and writes as decisively 
and absurdly upon war, politics, manners, and char 
acters, as that pedant talked, who was so kind as 
to instruct Hannibal in the art of war. Such closet 
politicians never fail to assign the deepest motives 
for the most trifling actions ; instead of often ascrib 
ing the greatest actions to the most trifling causes, 
in which they would be much seldomer mistaken. 
They read and write of kings, heroes, and states 
men, as never do anything but upon the deepest 
principles of sound policy. But those who see and 
observe kings, heroes, and statesmen, discover that 
they have headaches, indigestions, humors, and pas 
sions, just like other people ; every one of which, in 
their turns, determine their wills, in defiance of their 
reason. [Dec. 5, 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 269 

CHARM OF MANNER. The late Lord Townshend 
always spoke materially, with argument and knowl 
edge, but never pleased. Why? His diction was 
not only inelegant, but frequently ungrammatical, 
always vulgar; his cadences false, his voice unhar- 
monious, and his action ungraceful. Nobody heard 
him with patience; and the young fellows used to 
joke upon him, and repeat his inaccuracies. The late 
Duke of Argyle, though the weakest reasoner, was 
the most pleasing speaker I ever knew in my life. 
He charmed, he warmed, he forcibly ravished the 
audience; not by his matter certainly, but by his 
manner of delivering it. A most genteel figure, a 
graceful, noble air, an harmonious voice, an ele 
gancy of style, and a strength of emphasis, con 
spired to make him the most affecting, persuasive, 
and applauded speaker I ever saw. I was captivated 
like others; but when I came home, and coolly con 
sidered what he had said, stripped of all those orna 
ments in which he had dressed it, I often found the 
matter flimsy, the arguments weak, and I was con 
vinced of the power of those adventitious concurring 
circumstances, which ignorance of mankind only, 
calls trifling ones. [Same date.] 

TICKLING FOLLIES. If you -will please people, 
you :must please them in their own way ; and, as 



270 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

you cannot make them what they should be, you 
must take them as they are. I repeat it again, they 
are only to be taken by agrcmens, and by what flat 
ters their senses and their hearts. Rabelais first 
wrote a most excellent book, which nobody liked; 
then, determined to conform to the public taste, he 
wrote "Gargantua and Pantagruel," which every 
body liked, extravagant as it was. Adieu. [Same 
date.] 

TRUE ELOCUTION. What then does all this 
mighty heart and mystery of speaking in Parlia 
ment amount to? Why, no more than this, that 
the man who speaks in the House of Commons, 
speaks in that house, and to four hundred people, 
that opinion, upon a given subject, which he would 
make no difficulty of speaking in any house in Eng 
land, round the fire, or at table, to any fourteen 
people whatsoever; better judges, perhaps, and 
severer critics of what he says, than any fourteen 
gentlemen of the House of Commons. 

I have spoken frequently in Parliament, and not al 
ways without some applause ; and therefore I can as 
sure you, from my experience, that there is very little 
in it. The elegancy of the style, and the turn of the 
periods, make the chief impression upon the hearers. 
Give them but one or two round and harmonious 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 



periods in a speech, which they will retain and 
repeat, and they will go home as well satisfied, as 
people do from an opera, humming all the way one 
or two favorite tunes that have struck their ears 
and were easily caught. Most people have ears, but 
few have judgment; tickle those ears, and, depend 
upon it, you will catch their judgments, such as 
they are. [Dec. p, 1749.] 

HAMPDEN A LESSON. Lord Clarendon, in his 
history, says of Mr. John Hampden, that he had a 
head to contrive, a tongue to persuade, and a hand 
to execute, any mischief. I shall not now enter into 
the justness of this character of Mr. Hampden, to 
whose brave stand against the illegal demand of 
ship-money, we owe our present liberties; but I 
mention it to you as the character, which, with the 
alteration of one single word, good, instead of mis 
chief, I would have you aspire to, and use your 
utmost endeavors to deserve. The head to contrive, 
God must to a certain degree have given you; but 
it is in your own power greatly to improve it, by 
study, observation, and reflection. As for the tongue 
to persuade, it wholly depends upon yourself; and 
without it the best head will contrive to very little 
purpose. The hand to execute depends, likewise, in 
my opinion, in a great measure upon yourself. Seri 
ous reflection will always give courage in a good 



272 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 

cause; and the courage arising from reflection is of 
a much superior nature to the animal and constitu-. 
tional courage of a foot-soldier. The former is steady 
and unshaken, where the nodus is dignus vindice; 
the latter is oftener improperly than properly ex- 
.erted, but always brutally. [Dec. 12, 1749.] 

THINGS OF CONSEQUENCE BOLINGBROKE. He 
thought all these things of consequence, and he 
thought right; pray do you think so too? It is of 
the utmost consequence to you to be of that opinion. 
If you have the least defect in your elocution, take 
the utmost care and pains to correct it. Do not neg 
lect your style, whatever language you speak in, 
or whomever you speak to, were it your footman. 
Seek always for the best words and the happiest 
expressions you can find. Do not content yourself 
with being barely understood; but adorn your 
thoughts, and dress them as you would your person ; 
which, however well proportioned it might be, it 
would be very improper and indecent to exhibit 
naked, or even worse dressed than people of your 
sort are. 

I have sent you, in a packet which your Leipsic 
acquaintance, Duval, sends to his correspondent at 
Rome, Lord Bolingbroke's book,* which he pub- 

* "Letters on the Spirit of Patriotism, on the Idea of a Pa 
triot King." 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 273 

lished about a year ago. I desire that you will read 
it over and over again, with particular attention to 
the style, and to all those beauties of oratory with 
which it is adorned. Till I read that book, I con 
fess I did not know all the extent and powers of 
the English language. Lord Bolingbroke has both 
a tongue and a pen to persuade. [Same date.] 

COMPLICATED MACHINES. I have often told you 
(and it is most true) that, with regard to mankind, 
we must not draw general conclusions from certain 
particular principles, though, in the main, true ones. 
We must not suppose that, because a man is a 
rational animal, he will, therefore, always act ration 
ally ; or, because he has such or such a predominant 
passion, that he will act invariably and consequen 
tially in the pursuit of it. No, we are complicated 
machines ; and though we have one main spring that 
gives motion to the whole, we have an infinity of 
little wheels, which, in their turns, retard, precip 
itate, and sometimes stop that motion. [Dec. ip, 

''749-1 

AMBITION AND AVARICE. There are two incon 
sistent passions, which, however, frequently accom 
pany each other, like man and wife ; and which, like 
man and wife too, are commonly clogs upon each 
other. I mean ambition and avarice: the latter is 



CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTEKS. 



often the true cause of the former; and then is the 
predominant passion. It seems to have been so in 
Cardinal Mazarin; who did anything, submitted to 
anything, and forgave anything, for the sake of 
plunder. He loved and courted power like a usurer ; 
because it carried profit along with it. Whoever 
should have formed his opinion, or taken his meas 
ures, singly, from the ambitious part of Cardinal 
Mazarin's character, would have found himself often 
mistaken. Some, who had found this out, made 
their fortunes by letting him cheat them at play. 
On the contrary, Cardinal Richelieu's prevailing 
passion seems to have been ambition, and his im 
mense riches, only the natural consequences of that 
ambition gratified; and yet, I make no doubt but 
that ambition had now and then its turn with the 
former, and avarice with the latter. Richelieu (by 
the way) is so strong a proof of the inconsistency of 
human nature, that I cannot help observing to you 
that, while he absolutely governed both his king and 
his country, and was, in a great degree, the arbiter 
of the fate of all Europe, he was more jealous of the 
great reputation of Corneille, than of the power of 
Spain; and more flattered with being thought (what 
he was not) the best poet, than with being thought 
(what he certainly was) the greatest statesman in 
Europe ; and affairs stood still, while he was concert- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 275 

ing the criticism upon the Cid. Could one think this 
possible, if one did not know it to be true? [Same 
date.] 

WOMEN, VANITY, AND LOVE. Women are much 
more like each other than men ; they have, in truth, 
but two passions, vanity and love: these are their 
universal characteristics. An Agrippina may sacri 
fice them to ambition, or a Messalina to lust; but 
such instances are rare ; and, in general, all they say, 
and all they do, tends to the gratification of their 
vanity, or their love. He who flatters them most 
pleases them best; and they are most in love with 
him who they think is the most in love with them. 
No adulation is too strong for them; no assiduity 
too great; no simulation of passion too gross; as, 
on the other hand, the least word or action, that can 
possibly be construed into a slight or contempt, is 
unpardonable, and never forgotten. Men are, in 
this respect, tender, too, and will sooner forgive 
an injury than an insult. Some men are more cap 
tious than others; some are always wrongheaded; 
but every man living has such a share of vanity, as 
to be hurt by marks of slight and contempt. Every 
man does not pretend to be a poet, a mathematician, 
or a statesman, and considered as such; but every 
man pretends to common-sense, and to fill his place 



276 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 

in the world with common decency; and, conse 
quently, does not easily forgive those negligencies, 
inattentions, and slights, which seem to call in ques 
tion, or utterly deny him, both these pretensions. 
[Same date.] 

i 

Too READY FRIENDS. Be upon your guard 
against those who, upon very slight acquaintance, 
obtrude their unasked and unmerited friendship and 
confidence upon you; for they probably cram you 
with them only for their own eating; but, at the 
same time, do not roughly reject them upon that 
general supposition. Examine further, and see 
whether those unexpected offers flow from a warm 
heart and a silly head, or a designing head and a 
cold heart; for knavery and folly have often the 
same symptoms. In the first case, there is no danger 
in accepting them, valeant quantum valere possunt. 
In the latter case, it may be useful to seem to accept 
.them, and artfully to turn the battery upon him who 
raised it. 

There is an incontinency of friendship among 
young fellows, who are associated by their mutual 
pleasures only; which has, very frequently, bad 
consequences. A parcel of warm hearts, and unex 
perienced heads, heated by convivial mirth, and pos 
sibly a little too much wine, vow, and really mean 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 



at the time, eternal friendships to each other, and 
indiscreetly pour out their whole souls in common, 
and without the least reserve. These confidences 
are as indiscreetly repealed, as they were made; for 
new pleasures, and new places, soon dissolve this 
ill cemented connection; and then very ill uses are 
made of these rash confidences. Bear your part, 
however, in young companies; nay, excel, if you 
can, in all the social and convivial joy and festivity 
that become youth. Trust them with your love- 
tales, if you please; but keep your serious views 
secret. [Same date.] 

THE GENTLER VIRTUES. Caesar had all the great 
vices, and Cato all the great virtues, that men could 
have. But Caesar had the leniores virtutes, which 
Cato wanted; and which made him beloved, even 
by his enemies, and gained him the hearts of man 
kind, in spite of their reason; while Cato was not 
even beloved by his friends, notwithstanding the 
esteem and respect which they could not refuse to 
his virtues ; and I am apt to think that if Caesar had 
wanted, and Cato possessed, those leniores virtutes, 
the former would not have attempted (at least with 
success), and the latter could have protected, the 
liberties of Rome. Mr. Addison, in his Cato, says 
of Caesar (and I believe with truth) : 

r 

"Curse on his virtues, they've undone his country." 



278 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

PRIDE AND PEDANTRY. The costive liberality of 
a purse-proud man insults the distresses it sometimes 
relieves; he takes care to make you feel your own 
misfortunes, and the difference between your situa 
tion and his; both which he insinuates to be justly 
merited: yours, by your folly; his, by his wisdom. 
The arrogant pedant does not communicate, but 
promulgates his knowledge. He does not give it to 
you, but he inflicts it upon you; and is (if possible) 
more desirous to show you your own ignorance, 
than his own learning. Such manners as these, not 
only in the particular instances which I have men 
tioned, but likewise in all others, shock and revolt 
that little pride and vanity, which every man has 
in his heart; and obliterate in us the obligation for 
the favor conferred, by reminding us of the motive 
which produced and the manner which accompanied 
it. [No date.] 

GREETINGS AND GOOD WISHES. The New Year 
is the season in which custom seems more particu 
larly to authorize civil and harmless lies, under the 
name of compliments. People reciprocally profess 
wishes, which they seldom form ; and concern, which 
they seldom feel. That is not the case between you 
and me, where truth leaves no room for compli 
ments. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 279 

Dii tibi dent annos, de te nam c&tera sumes, was 
said formerly to one, by a man who certainly did 
not think it. With the variation of one word only, 
I will with great truth say it to you. I will make the 
first part conditional, by changing, in the second, the 
nam into si. May you live, as long as you are fit 
to live, but no longer ! or, may you rather die, before 
you cease to be fit to live, than after! My true 
tenderness for you makes me think more of the 
manner than of the length of your life, and forbids 
me to wish it prolonged, by a single day, that should 
bring guilt, reproach, and shame upon you. I have 
not malice enough in my nature to wish that to my 
greatest enemy. You are the principal object of 
all my cares, the only object of all my hopes : I have 
now reason to believe, that you will reward the 
former, and answer the latter; in that case, may 
you live long, for you must live happy; de te nam 
catera sumes. Conscious virtue is the only solid 
foundation of all happiness ; for riches, power, rank, 
or whatever, in the common acceptation of the word, 
is supposed to constitute happiness, will never quiet, 
much less cure, the inward pangs of guilt. To that 
main wish I will add those of the good old nurse 
of Horace, in his Epistle to Tibullus: Sapere, you 
have it in a good degree already. Et fari ut possit 
qua sentiat. Have you that ? More, much more, is 



280 CHESTEHFIELD'S LETTEES. 

meant by it, than common speech, or mere articula 
tion. I fear that still remains to be wished for, and 1 
earnestly wish it you. Gratia andfama will inevi 
tably accompany the above-mentioned qualifications. 
The vcdetudo is the only one that is not in your own 
power, Heaven alone can grant it you, and may it do 
so abundantly ! As for the mundus victus, non defi- 
ciente crumena, do you deserve, and I will provide 
them. [Dec. 26, 1749.] 

POETS AND ORATORS. A man who is not born 
with a poetical genius can never be a poet, or, at 
best, an extreme bad one: but every man, who can 
speak at all, can speak elegantly and correctly, if 
he pleases, by attending to the best authors and 
orators; and, indeed, I would advise those who do 
not speak elegantly, not to speak at all; for, I am 
sure, they will get more by their silence than by their 
speech. As for politeness ; whoever keeps good com 
pany, and is not polite, must have formed a resolu 
tion, and taken some pains not to be so; otherwise 
he would naturally and insensibly acquire the air, 
the address, and the tone of those he converses with. 
[Same date.] 

METHOD OF STUDY THE WORLD AND BOOKS. 
Your first morning hours, I would have you devote 
to your graver studies with Mr. Harte; the middle 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 281 

part of the day, I would have employed in seeing 
things ; and the evenings, in seeing people. You are 
not, I hope, of a lazy, inactive turn, in either body 
or mind; and, in that case, the day is full long 
enough for everything; especially at Rome, where 
it is not the fashion, as it is here and at Paris, to 
embezzle at least half of it at table. But if, by 
accident, two or three hours are sometimes wanting 
for some useful purpose, borrow them from your 
sleep. Six, or at most seven hours' sleep is, for a 
constancy, as much as you or anybody can want: 
more is only laziness and dozing; and is, I am per 
suaded, both unwholesome and stupefying. If, by 
chance, your business, or your pleasures, should keep 
you up till four or five o'clock in the morning, I 
would advise you, however, to rise exactly at your 
usual time, that you may not lose the precious morn 
ing hours ; and that the want of sleep may force you 
to go to bed earlier the next night. This is what 
I was advised to do when very young, by a very wise 
man; and what, I assure you, I always did in the 
most dissipated part of my life. I have very often 
gone to bed at six in the morning, and rose, notwith 
standing, at eight; by which means I got many 
hours, in the morning, that my companions lost ; and 
the want of sleep obliged me to keep good hours the 
next, or at least the third night. To this method I 



282 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

owe the greatest part of my reading; for, from 
twenty to forty, I should certainly have read very 
little, if I had not been up while my acquaintances 
were in bed. Know the true value of time; snatch, 
seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, 
no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till 
to-morrow what you can do to-day. That was the 
rule of the famous and unfortunate pensionary De 
Witt; who, by strictly following it, found time, not 
only to do the whole business of the republic, but to 
pass his evenings at assemblies and suppers, as if 
he had nothing else to do or think of. [Same date.] 

RELIGION, WHY SILENT ON. I have seldom or 
never written to you upon the subject of religion and 
morality: your own reason, I am persuaded, has 
given you true notions of both ; they speak best for 
themselves ; but, if they wanted assistance, you have 
Mr. Harte at hand, both for precept and example : to 
your own reason, therefore, and to Mr. Harte, shall 
I refer you, for the reality of both; and confine 
myself, in this letter, to the decency, the utility, and 
the necessity of scrupulously preserving the appear 
ances of both. When I say the appearances of relig 
ion, I do not mean that you should act or talk like 
a missionary, or an enthusiast, nor that you should 
take up a controversial cudgel against whoever 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 283 

attacks the sect you are of ; this would be both use 
less and unbecoming your age ; but I mean that you 
should by no means seem to approve, encourage, or 
applaud those libertine notions, which strike at 
religions equally, and which are the poor, thread 
bare topics of half wits and minute philosophers. 
Even those who are silly enough to laugh at their 
jokes are still wise enough to distrust and detest 
their characters; for, putting moral virtues at the 
highest, and religion at the lowest, religion must 
still be allowed to be a collateral security, at least, 
to virtue; and every prudent man will sooner trust 
to two securities than to one. Whenever, therefore, 
you happen to be in company with those pretended 
esprits forts, or with thoughtless libertines, who 
laugh at all religion, to show their wit, or disclaim 
it, to complete their riot, let no word or look of 
yours indicate the least approbation; on the con 
trary, let a silent gravity express your dislike: but 
enter not into the subject, and decline such unprofit 
able and indecent controversies. Depend upon this 
truth, that every man is the worse looked upon, and 
the less trusted, for being thought to have no re 
ligion; in spite of all the pompous and specious 
epithets he may assume of esprit fort free-thinker, 
or moral philosopher; and a wise atheist (if such a 
thing there is) would, for his own interest and char- 



284 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

acter in this world, pretend to some religion. [Jan. 
8, 1750-} 

MORAL CHARACTER. Your moral character 
must be not only pure, but, like Caesar's wife, unsus 
pected. The least speck or blemish upon it is fatal. 
Nothing degrades and vilifies more, for it excites 
and unites detestation and contempt. There are, 
however, wretches in the world profligate enough to 
explode all notions of moral good and evil; to main 
tain that they are merely local, and depend entirely 
upon the customs and fashions of different coun 
tries : nay, there are still, if possible, more unac 
countable wretches; I mean, those who affect to 
preach and propagate such absurd and infamous 
notions, without believing them themselves. These 
are the Devil's hypocrites. Avoid, as much as pos 
sible, the company of such people ; who reflect a 
degree of discredit and infanty upon all who con 
verse with them. But as you may, sometimes, by 
accident, fall into such company, take great care 
that no complaisance, no good-humor, no warmth 
of festal mirth, ever make you seem even to acqui 
esce, much less to approve or applaud, such infamous 
doctrines. On the other hand, do not debate, nor 
enter into serious argument, upon a subject so much 
below it: but content yourself with telling these 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 285 

apostles, that you know they are not serious, that 
you have a much better opinion of them than they 
would have you have, and that you are very sure 
they would not practise the doctrine they preach. 
But put your private mark upon them, and shun 
them for ever afterwards. [Same date.] 

VALUE OF CHARACTER. Show yourself, upon all 
occasions, the advocate, the friend, but not the bully, 
of virtue. Colonel Chartres,* whom you have cer 
tainly heard of (who was, I believe, the most notori 
ous blasted rascal in the world, and who had, by all 
sorts of crimes, amassed immense wealth), was so 
sensible of the disadvantage of a bad character that 
I heard him once say, in his impudent, profligate 
manner, that though he would not give one farthing 
for virtue, he would give ten thousand pounds for 

* A notorious, wretched debauchee, who has been pilloried 
into a miserable and degraded immortality by Arbuthnpt, Pope 
and Hogarth ; the painter has given us his portrait in "The 
Harlot's Progress," plate i. Pope has set him up as an in 
stance of that hardest trial to good men, the success of the 
wicked : 

"Should some lone temple, nodding to its fall, 
For Chartres' head reserve the nodding wall." 

And Arbuthnot wrote the most tremendously severe epitaph 
in the whole range of literature on him while yet alive: "Here 
continueth to rot the body of Colonel Francis Chartres," etc. 
Finally, Chesterfield points him out to his son as the most- 
notorious blasted rascal in the world blasted, indeed, as by 
lightning. It is needless to say that this word is not used as 
a vulgar oath, but to point out a man whose name is, as the 
Bible of 1551 has it: "Marred forever by blastynge." 



286 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTERS. 

a character, because he should get a hundred thou 
sand pounds by it ; whereas he was so blasted that he 
had no longer an opportunity of cheating people. Is 
is possible, then, that an honest man can neglect 
what a wise rogue would purchase so dear ? [Same 
date.'] 

A NICE DISTINCTION EXAGGERATION. Lord 
Bacon, very justly, makes a distinction between 
simulation and dissimulation, and allows the latter 
rather than the former; but still observes that they 
are the weaker sort of politicians who have recourse 
to either. A man who has strength of mind and 
strength of parts wants neither of them. "Cer 
tainly," says he, "the ablest men that ever were have 
all had an openness and frankness of dealing, and a 
name of certainty and veracity; but then they were 
like horses well managed, for they could tell, passing 
well, when to stop or turn ; and at such times, when 
they thought the case indeed required some dissim 
ulation, if then they used it, it came to pass that the 
former opinion spread abroad, of their good faith 
and clearness of dealing, made them almost invisi 
ble." There are people who indulge themselves in 
a sort of lying, which they reckon innocent, and 
which in one sense is so; for it hurts nobody but 
themselves.' This sort of lying is the spurious off- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 287 

spring- of vanity, begotten upon folly. These people 
deal in the marvellous; they have seen some things 
that never existed; they have seen other things 
which they never really saw, though they did exist, 
only because they were thought worth seeing. Has 
anything remarkable been said or done in any place, 
or in any company? they immediately present and 
declare themselves eye or ear witnesses of it. They 
have done feats themselves, unattempted, or at least 
unperformed by others. They are always the heroes 
of their own fables, and think that they gain consid 
eration, or at least present attention, by it. Whereas, 
in truth, all they get is ridicule and contempt, not 
without a good degree of distrust : for one must nat 
urally conclude that he who will tell any lie from 
idle vanity will not scruple telling a greater for 
interest. [Same date.] 

THE NOVICE IN SOCIETY. I remember that 
when, with all the awkwardness and rust of Cam 
bridge about me, I was first introduced into good 
company, I was frightened out of my wits. I was 
determined to be what I thought civil ; I made fine 
low bows, and placed myself below everybody; but 
when I was spoken to, or attempted to speak myself, 
obstupui, steteruntque comoz et vox faucibus hcesit. 
If I saw people whisper, I was sure it was at me; 



288 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTERS. 

and I thought myself the sole object of either the 
ridicule or the censure of the whole company, who, 
God knows, did not trouble their heads about me. 
In this way I suffered, for some time, like a crim 
inal at the bar ; and should certainly have renounced 
all polite company forever, if I had not been so con 
vinced of the absolute necessity of forming my 
manners upon those of the best companies, that I 
determined to persevere, and suffer anything, or 
everything, rather than not compass that point. 
Insensibly it grew easier to me; and I began not 
to bow so ridiculously low, and to answer questions 
without great hesitation or stammering; if, now 
and then, some charitable people, seeing my embar 
rassment, and being dcsocuvre themselves, came and 
spoke to me, I considered them as angels sent to 
comfort me; and that gave me a little courage. I 
got more soon afterward, and was intrepid enough 
to go up to a fine woman, and tell her that I thought 
it a warm day; she answered me, very civilly, that 
she thought so too; upon which the conversation 
ceased, on my part, for some time, till she, good- 
naturedly resuming it, spoke to me thus : "I see your 
embarrassment, and I am sure that the few words 
you said to me cost you a great deal ; but do not be 
discouraged for that reason, and avoid good com 
pany. We see that you desire to please, and that is 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 289 

the main point ; you want only the manner, and you 
think that you want it still more than you do. You 
must go through your noviciate before you can 
profess good-breeding; and, if you will be my novice, 
I will present you to my acquaintance as such." 
[Jan. ii, 1750.] 

THE CHAPERONE. There 4s a sort of veteran 
women (sic) of condition, who, having lived always 
in the grand monde, and having possibly had some 
gallantries, together with the experience of five and 
twenty or thirty years, form a young fellow better 
than all the rules that can be given him. These 
women, being past their bloom, are extremely flat 
tered by the least attention from a young fellow; 
and they will point out to him those manners and 
attentions that pleased and engaged them, when they 
were in the pride of their youth and beauty. Wher 
ever you go, make some of those women your 
friends, which a very little matter will do. Ask 
their advice, tell them your doubts or difficulties as 
to your behavior; but take great care not to drop 
one word of their experience ; for experience implies 
age, and the suspicion of age, no woman, let her be 
ever so old, ever forgives. [Same date.] 

NECESSARY ACCOMPLISHMENTS. I here subjoin 
a list of all those necessary, ornamental accomplish- 



290 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

ments (without which no man living can either 
please or rise in the world), which hitherto I fear 
you want, and which only require your care and at 
tention to possess. 

To speak elegantly whatever language you speak 
in ; without which nobody will hear you with pleas 
ure, and, consequently, you will speak to very little 
purpose. 

An agreeable and distinct elocution; without 
which nobody will hear you with patience; this 
everybody may acquire who is not born with some 
imperfection in the organs of speech. You are not ; 
and therefore it is wholly in your power. You need 
take much less pains for it than Demosthenes did. 

A distinguished politeness of manners and ad 
dress ; which common-sense, observation, good com 
pany, and imitation will infallibly give you, if you 
will accept of it. 

A genteel carriage, and graceful motions, with the 
air of a man of fashion. A good dancing master, 
with some care on your part, and some imitation of 
those who excel, will soon bring this about. 

To be extremely clean in your person, and per 
fectly well dressed, according to the fashion, be 
that what it will. Your negligence of dress, while 
you were a schoolboy, was pardonable, but would 
not be so now. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 291 

Upon the whole, take it for granted, that, without 
these accomplishments, all you know, and all you 
can do, will avail you very little. Adieu. [Jan. 
iS, 1750.] 

TIME ITS VALUE. Very few people are good 
economists of their fortune, and still fewer of their 
time; and yet, of the two, the latter is the most 
precious. I heartily wish you to be a good econo 
mist of both; and you are now of an age to begin to 
think seriously of these two important articles. 
Young people are apt to think they have so much 
time before them, that they may squander what they 
please of it, and yet have enough left ; as very great 
fortunes have frequently seduced people to a ruinous 
profusion. Fatal mistakes, always repented of, but 
always too late! Old Mr. Lowndes, the famous 
Secretary of the Treasury, in the reigns of King 
William, Queen Anne, and King George the First, 
used to say, "Take care of the pence, and the pounds 
will take care of themselves." To this maxim, 
which he not only preached, but practised, his two 
grandsons, at this time, owe the very considerable 
fortunes that he left them. [Feb. 5, 1750.] 

LAZY PEOPLE DISPATCH How TO READ. 
Many people lose a great deal of their time by 
laziness; they loll and yawn in a great chair, tell 



292 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

themselves that they have not time to begin anything 
then, and that it will do as well another time. This 
is a most unfortunate disposition, and the greatest 
obstruction to both knowledge and business. At 
your age, you have no right nor claim to laziness; 
I have, if I please, being emeritus. You are but just 
listed in the world, and must be active, diligent, 
indefatigable. If ever you propose commanding 
with dignity, you must serve up to it with diligence. 
Never put off till to-morrow what you can do 
to-day. 

Dispatch is the soul of business ; and nothing con 
tributes more to dispatch than method. Lay down 
a method for everything, and stick to it inviolably, 
as far as unexpected incidents may allow. Fix one 
certain hour and day in the week for your accompts, 
and keep them together in their proper order; by 
which means they will require very little time, and 
you can never be much cheated. Whatever letters 
and papers you keep, docket and tie them up in their 
respective classes, so that you may instantly have 
recourse to any one. Lay down a method also for 
your reading, for which you allot a certain share of 
your mornings ; let it be in a consistent and consecu 
tive course, and not in that desultory and immethod- 
ical manner, in which many people read scraps of 
Different authors, upon different subjects. Keep a 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 293 

useful and short commonplace book of what you 
read, to help your memory only, and not for pedan 
tic quotations. Never read history without having 
maps, and a chronological book, or tables, lying by 
you, and constantly recurred to; without which 
history is only a confused heap of facts. One 
method more I recommend to you, by which I have 
found great benefit, even in the most dissipated part 
of my life; that is, to rise early, and at the same 
hour every morning, how late soever you may have 
sat up the night before. This secures you an hour 
or two, at least, of reading and reflection, before 
the common interruptions of the morning begin; 
and it will save your constitution, by forcing you to 
go to bed early, at least one night in three. [Feb. 
5, I750-] 

DIGNITY IN PLEASURE. There is a certain dig 
nity to be kept up in pleasures, as well as in business. 
In love, a man may lose his heart with dignity; but 
if he loses his nose, he loses his character into the 
bargain. At table, a man may with decency have a 
distinguishing palate; but indiscriminate voracious 
ness degrades him to a glutton. A man may play 
with decency ; but if he games, he is disgraced. Vi 
vacity and wit make a man shine in company; but 
trite jokes and loud laughter reduce him to a buf- 



294 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

foon. Every virtue, they say, has its kindred vice ; 
every pleasure, I am sure, has its neighboring- dis 
grace. Mark carefully, therefore, the line that sep 
arates them, and carefully stop a yard short, than 
step an inch beyond it. 

I wish to God that you had as much pleasure in 
following my advice, as I have in giving it you; 
and you may the easier have it, as I give you none 
that is inconsistent with your pleasure. [Same date.] 

FALSE WIT. To do justice to the best English 
and French authors; they have not given in to that 
false taste; they allow no thoughts to be good, that 
are not just, and founded upon truth. The age of 
Louis XIV. was very like the Augustan; Boileau, 
Moliere, La Fontaine, Racine, etc., established the 
true, and exposed the false taste. The reign of King 
Charles II. (meritorious in no other respect) ban 
ished false tastes out of England, and proscribed 
puns, quibbles, acrostics, etc. Since that, false wit 
has renewed its attacks, and endeavored to recover 
its lost empire, both in England and France, but 
without success ; though, I must say, with more suc 
cess in France than in England : Addison, Pope and 
Swift, having vigorously defended the rights of 
good-sense, which is more than can be said of their 
contemporary French authors, who have of late had 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 295 

a great tendency to le faux brillant, le ranfienient, et 
I'entortillement. And Lord Roscommon would be 
more in the right now, than he was then, in saying, 
that 

"The English bullion of one sterling line, 

Drawn to French wire, would through whole pages shine." 

[Same date.] 

No STOIC. I confess, the pleasures of high life 
are not always strictly philosophical; and I believe 
a stoic would blame my indulgence; but I am yet 
no stoic, though turned of five-and-fifty ; and I am 
apt to think that you are rather less so, at eighteen. 
The pleasures of the table, among people of the 
first fashion, may, indeed, sometimes, by accident, 
run into excesses; but they will never sink into a 
continued course of gluttony and drunkenness. The 
gallantry of high life, though not strictly justifiable, 
carries, at least, no external marks of infamy about 
it. [March 8, 1750.] 

ETIQUETTE. I did not think that the present 
Pope* was a sort of man to build seven modern 
little chapels at the expense of so respectable a piece 
of antiquity as the Coliseum. However, let his 
holiness' taste of vertu be ever so bad, pray get 

* Benedict XIV. the amiable Lambertini, who was thought 
by Chesterfield too much of a savant and a man of the world 
to be foolishly devout 



296 



CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 



somebody to present you to him, before you leave 
Rome; and without hesitation kiss his slipper, or 
whatever else the etiquette of that court requires. 
I would have you see all those ceremonies; and I 
presume that you are, by this time, ready enough at 
Italian to understand and answer il Santo Padre in 
that language. [March 19, 1750.] 

BIBLIOMANIA. When you return here, I am apt 
to think that you will find something better to do 
than to run to Mr. Osborne's at Gray's-Inn, to pick 
up scarce books. Buy good books, and read them; 
the best books are the commonest, and the last edi 
tions are always the best, if the editors are not block 
heads ; for they may profit of the former. But take 
care not to understand editions and title-pages too 
well. It always smells of pedantry, and not always 
of learning. What curious books I have, they are 
indeed but few, shall be at your service. I have 
some of the Old Collana, and the Macchiavel of 
1550. Beware of the Bibliomanie. [Same date.] 

CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY. England is now 
the only monarchy in -the world that can properly be 
said to have a constitution; for the people's rights 
and liberties are secured by laws. I cannot reckon 
Sweden and Poland to be monarchies. [March 29, 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 297 

AIM HIGH. Aim at perfection in everything, 
though in most things it is unattainable; however, 
they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much 
nearer it than those whose laziness and despondency 
make them give it up as unattainable. Magnis 
tamen excidit ausis is a degree of praise which will 
always attend a noble and shining temerity, and a 
much better sign in a young fellow, than serpere 
hiimi, tutus nimium timidusque procella, for men, 
as well as women. [May 24, 1750.] 

A DUE RETURN. I heard with great satisfaction 
the other day, from one who has been lately at 
Rome, that nobody was better received in the best 
companies than yourself. The same thing, I dare 
say, will happen to you at Paris, where they are 
particularly kind to all strangers who will be civil 
to them and show a desire of pleasing. But they 
must be flattered a little, not only by words, but by 
a seeming preference given to their country, their 
manners, and their customs; which is but a small 
price to pay for a very good reception. Were I in 
Africa, I would pay it to a negro for his good-will. 
Adieu. {June 5, 1750.'} 

USE OF ORATORY. Your trade is to speak well, 
both in public and in private. The manner of your 
speaking is full as important as the matter, as more 



298 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

people have ears to be tickled than understandings 
to judge. Be your productions ever so good, they 
will be of no use if you stifle and strangle them in 
their birth. The best compositions of Corelli, if 
ill executed, and played out of tune, instead of 
touching, as they do when well performed, would 
only excite the indignation of the hearers, when 
murdered by an unskilful performer. But to mur 
der your own productions, and that coram populo, 
is a Medean cruelty, which Horace absolutely for 
bids. Remember of what importance Demosthenes, 
and one of the Gracchi, thought enunciation; read 
what stress Cicero and Quintilian lay upon it ; even 
the herb-women at Athens were correct judges of 
it. Oratory with all its graces, that of enunciation 
in particular, is full as necessary in our government, 
as it ever was in Greece or Rome. No man can 
make a fortune or a figure in this country, without 
speaking, and speaking well in public. [July 9, 
I750-] 

SPEAK WELL. Recite pieces of eloquence, de 
claim scenes of tragedies to Mr. Harte, as if he were 
a numerous audience. If there is any particular 
consonant which you have a difficulty in articulating, 
as I think you had with the R, utter it millions and 
millions of times, till you have uttered it right. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 299 

Never speak quick, till you have first learned to 
speak well. In short, lay aside every book and every 
thought, that does not directly tend to this great 
object, absolutely decisive of your future fortune 
and figure. [Same date.] 

A TRUTH. Pleasure is necessarily reciprocal; no 
one feels who does not at the same time give it. To 
be pleased, one must please. What pleases you in 
others, will in general please them in you. [Same 
date.] 

LEARNED IGNORANCE. A man of the best parts, 
and the greatest learning, if he does not know the 
world by his own experience and observation, will 
be very absurd, and consequently very unwelcome 
in company. He may say very good things; but 
they will probably be so ill-timed, misplaced, or 
improperly addressed, that he had much better hold 
his tongue. Full of his own matter, and uninformed 
of, or inattentive to, the particular circumstances 
and situations of the company, he vents it indis 
criminately; he puts some people out of counte 
nance; he shocks others; and frightens all, who 
dread what may come out next. The most general 
rule that I can give you for the world, and which 
your experience will convince you of the truth of, 
is: Never to give the tone to the company, but to 



300 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

take it from them; and to labor more to put them 
in conceit with themselves, than to make them 
admire you. Those whom you can make like them 
selves better, will, 1 promise you, like you very 
well. [Aug. 6, 1750.} 

A PORTRAIT. It is Lady Hervey,* whom I 
directed you to call upon at Dijon ; but who, to my 
great joy, because to your great advantage, passes 
all this winter at Paris. She has been bred all her 
life at courts; of which she has acquired all the easy 
good-breeding and politeness, without the frivolous- 
ness. She has all the reading that a woman should 
have : and more than any woman need have ; for she 
understands Latin perfectly well, though she wisely 
conceals it. As she will look upon you as her son, 
I desire that you will look upon her as my delegate : 
trust, consult, and apply to her without reserve. No 
woman ever had, more than she has, le ton de la par- 
faitement bonne compagnic, les manieres engage- 
antes et le j'e ne sais quoi qui plait. Desire her to 
reprove and correct any, and every, the least error 
and inaccuracy in your manners, air, addresses, etc. 
No woman in Europe can do it so well; none will 
do it more willingly, or in a more proper and oblig 
ing manner. [Oct. 22, 1750.] 

* The lady was turned fifty, and Chesterfield recommends 
her as a chaperone. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 301 

HISTORY. While you are in France, I could wish 
that the hours you allot for historical amusement 
should be entirely devoted to the history of France. 
One always reads history to most advantage in that 
country to which it is relative, not only books but 
persons being ever at hand to solve the doubts and 
clear up difficulties. I do by no means advise you to 
throw away your time in ransacking, like a dull 
antiquarian, the minute and important parts of 
remote and fabulous times. Let blockheads read 
what blockheads wrote. A general notion of the 
history of France, from the conquest of that coun 
try by the Franks, to the reign of Lewis the Elev 
enth, is sufficient for use, consequently sufficient for 
you. There are, however, in those remote times, 
some remarkable eras, that deserve more particular 
attention ; I mean those in which some notable alter 
ations happened in the constitution and form of gov 
ernment. [Nov. i, 1750.] 

SMALL TALK. I am far from meaning by this, 
that you should always be talking wisely, in com 
pany, of books, history, and matters of knowledge. 
There are many companies which you will and 
ought to keep, where such conversations would be 
misplaced and ill-timed; your own good-sense must 
distinguish the company, and the time. You must 



302 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

trifle with triflers, and be serious only with the seri 
ous, but dance to those who pipe. Cur in theatrum 
Cato severe venisti? was justly said to an old man ; 
how much more so would it be to one of your age? 
From the moment that you are dressed, and go out, 
pocket all your knowledge with your watch, and 
never pull it out in company unless desired : the pro 
ducing of the one unasked implies that you are 
weary of the company; and the producing of the 
other unrequired will make the company weary of 
you. Company is a republic too jealous of its lib 
erties to suffer a dictator even for a quarter of an 
hour; and yet in that, as in all republics, there are 
some who really govern, but then it is by seeming to 
disclaim, instead of attempting to usurp, the power ; 
that is the occasion in which manners, dexterity, 
address, and the undefinable je ne sais quoi triumph ; 
if properly exerted, their conquest is sure, and the 
more lasting for not being perceived. Remember, 
that this is not only your first and greatest, but 
ought to be almost your only object, while you are 
in France. {Same date.] 

A RAKE. -Having mentioned the word rake, I 
must say a word or two more upon that subject, 
because young people too frequently, and always 
fatally, are apt to mistake that character ior that 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 303 

of a man of pleasure; whereas, there are not in the 
world two characters more different. A rake is a 
composition of all the lowest, most ignoble, degrad 
ing, and shameful vices; they all conspire to.disgrace 
his character, and to ruin his fortune; while wine 
and disease contend which shall soonest and most 
effectually destroy his constitution. A dissolute, 
flagitious footman, or porter, makes full as good 
a rake as a man of the first quality. By the by, let 
me tell you, that in the wildest part of my youth I 
never was a rake, but, on the contrary, always de 
tested and despised the character.* [Nov. 8, 1750.'] 

KEEP THE PEACE. Keep carefully out of all 
scrapes and quarrels. They lower a character ex 
tremely; and are particularly dangerous in France; 
where a man is dishonored by not resenting an af 
front, and utterly ruined by resenting it. The young 
Frenchmen are hasty, giddy, and petulant; ex 
tremely national, and avantageux. Forbear from 
any national jokes or reflections, which are always 
improper, and commonly unjust. The colder north 
ern nations generally look upon France as a whist 
ling, singing, dancing, frivolous nation ; this notion 
is very far from being a true one, though many 

* Strong as this reprobation is, it is as much needed to-day 
as when written ; the whole English race (if we credit West 
minister Review, March, 1869), especially the upper class, is 
suffering from the awful effects of vice. 



304 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTERS. 

petits maitres by their behavior seem to justify it; 
but those very petits maitres, when mellowed by 
age and experience, very often turn out very able 
men. The number of great generals and statesmen, 
as well as excellent authors, that France has pro 
duced, is an undeniable proof, that it is not that 
frivolous, unthinking, empty nation that the north 
ern prejudices suppose it. [No date.~\ 

A NEW CONSTITUTION. This epigram in Mar 
tial: 

"Non amo te, Sabidi, nee possum dicere quare, 
Hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te" * 

has puzzled a great many people; who cannot con 
ceive how it is possible not to love anybody, and 
yet not to know the reason why. I think I conceive 
Martial's meaning very clearly, though the nature 
of epigram, which is to be short, would not allow 
him to explain it more fully; and I take it to be 
this : "O Sabidis, you are a very worthy, deserving 
man ; you have a thousand good qualities, you have 
a great deal of learning ; I esteem, I respect, but for 
the soul of me, I cannot love you, though I cannot 
particularly say why. You are not amiable; you 

* Thus Englished by the famous Tom Brown : 

"I do not love thee, Dr. Fell, the reason why I cannot tell, 
But this I know and know full well, I do not love thee. Dr. 
Fell," 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 305 

have not those engaging manners, those pleasing 
attentions, those graces, and that address, which are 
absolutely necessary to please, though impossible to 
define. I cannot say it is this or that particular 
thing which hinders me from loving you, ii is the 
whole together; and upon the whole you are not 
agreeable." How often have I, in the course of 
my life, found myself in this situation, with regard 
to many of my acquaintance, whom I have honored 
and respected, without being able to love? I did 
not know why, because, when one is young, one does 
not take the trouble, nor allow one's self the time, 
to analyze one's sentiments, and to trace them up 
to their source. [Feb. 28, 1751.] 

CARRIAGE OF THE BODY. It sounds ridiculously 
to bid you study with your dancing-master ; and yet 
I do. The bodily carriage and graces are of infinite 
consequence to everybody, and more particularly to 
you. Adieu for this time, my dear child. Yours 
tenderly. [No date.] 

How TO PLEASE. An air, a tone of voice, a 
composure of countenance to mildness and softness, 
which are all easily acquired, do the business; and 
without further examination, and possibly with the 
contrary qualities, that man is reckoned the gentlest, 
the modestest, and the best-natured man alive. 



306 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

Happy the man who, with a certain fund of parts 
and knowledge, gets acquainted with the world early 
enough to make it his bubble, at an age when most 
people are the bubbles of the world ! for that is the 
common case of youth. They grow wiser when 
it is too late; and, ashamed and vexed at having 
been bubbles so long, too often turn knaves at last. 
Do not, therefore, trust to appearances and outside 
yourself, but pay other people with them, because 
you may be sure that nine in ten of mankind do, and 
ever will, trust to them. This is by no means a 
criminal or blamable simulation, if not used with an 
ill intention. I am by no means blamable in desiring 
to have other people's good word, good-will, and 
affection, if I do not mean to abuse them. Your 
heart, I know, is good, your sense is sound, and 
your knowledge extensive. [May 6, 



PICTURES. I received yesterday, at the same 
time, your letters of the 4th and the i ith, N. S., and 
being much more careful of my commissions than 
3 r ou are of yours, I do not delay one moment sending 
you my final instructions concerning the pictures. 
The man, you allow to be a Titian, and in good 
preservation; the woman is an indifferent and a 
damaged picture; but, as I want them for furniture 
for a particular room, companions are necessary; 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 307 

and therefore I am willing to take the woman, for 
better for worse, upon account of the man; and if 
she is not too much damaged, I can have her toler 
ably repaired, as many a fine woman is, by a skilful 
hand here; but then I expect the lady should be, in 
a manner, thrown into the bargain with the man; 
and, in this state of affairs, the woman being worth 
little or nothing, I will not go above fourscore louis 
for the two together. As for the Rembrandt you 
mention, though it is very cheap, if good, I do not 
care for it. I love la belle nature; Rembrandt paints 
caricatures. Now for your own commissions, which 
you seem to have forgotten. [May 10, 1/51.] 

DANCING AND DEPORTMENT. Lady Hervey, 
who is your puff and panegyrist, writes me word, 
that she saw you lately dance at a ball, and that you 
dance very genteelly. I am extremely glad to hear 
it; for (by the maxim that omne majus continet in 
se minus) if you dance genteelly, I presume you 
walk, sit, and stand genteelly too ; things which are 
much more easy, though much more necessary, than 
dancing well. I have known many very genteel 
people, who could not dance well ; but I never knew 
anybody dance very well, who was not genteel in 
other things. You will probably often have occa 
sion to stand in circles, at the levees of princes and 



308 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

ministers, when it is very necessary, de payer de sa 
personne, et d'etre bien plante, with your feet not 
too near nor too distant from each other. More 
people stand and walk, than sit genteelly. Awk 
ward, ill-bred people, being ashamed, commonly sit 
up bolt upright and stiff; others, too negligent and 
easy, se vautrent dans leur fauteuil, which is un 
graceful and ill-bred, unless where the familiarity 
is extreme. [June 10, 1751.] 

LITTLE NOTHINGS. I know a man, and so do 
you, who, without a grain of merit, knowledge, or 
talents, has raised himself millions of degrees above 
his level, simply by a good air and engaging man 
ners ; insomuch that the very prince, who raised him 
so high, calls him, mon aimable vaurieri* : but of 
this do not open your lips, pour cause. I give you 
this secret, as the strongest proof imaginable, of the 
efficacy of air, address, tournure, et tons ces petits 
riens. [Same date.] 

EASE OF MANNER. Les bienseances^ are a most 
necessary part of the knowledge of the world. They 
consist in the relations of persons, things, time, and 
place; good-sense points them out, good company 

* The Marechal de Richelieu. 

f This single word implies decorum, good-breeding, and 
propriety. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 309 

perfects them (supposing always an attention and a 
desire to please), and good policy recommends them. 
Were you to converse with a king, you ought to 
be as easy and unembarrassed as with your own 
valet-de-chambre ; but yet every look, word, and 
action should imply the utmost respect. What 
would be proper and well bred with others much 
your superiors, would be absurd and ill-bred with 
one so very much so. You must wait till you are 
spoken to; you must receive, not give, the subject 
of conversation, and you must even take care that 
the given subject of such conversation do not lead 
you into any impropriety. [June 13, 



SOCIAL RESPECT. In mixed companies with 
your equals (for in mixed companies all people are 
to a certain degree equal) greater ease and liberty 
are allowed; but they too have their bounds within 
bienseance. There is a social respect necessary ; you 
may start your own subject of conversation with 
modesty, taking great care, however, de ne jamais 
parler de cordes dans la maison d'un pendu. Your 
words, gestures, and attitudes have a greater degree 
of latitude, though by no means an unbounded one. 
You may have your hands in your pockets, take 
snuff, sit, stand, or occasionally walk, as you like; 
but I believe you would not think it very bienseant 



310 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

to whistle, put on your hat, loosen your garters or 
your buckles, lie down upon a couch, or go to bed, 
and welter in an easy chair. These are negligences 
and freedoms which one can only take when quite 
alone ; they are injurious to superiors, shocking and 
offensive to equals, brutal and insulting to inferiors. 
That easiness of carriage and behavior, which is 
exceedingly engaging, widely differs from negli 
gence and inattention, and by no means implies that 
one may do whatever one pleases. [Same date.] 

RESPECT DUE TO WOMAN. To women you 
should always address yourself with great outward 
respect and attention, whatever you feel inwardly; 
their sex is by long prescription entitled to it; and 
it is among the duties of bienseance; at the same 
time that respect is very properly, and very agree 
ably, mixed with a degree of enjouement, if you 
have it ; but then, that badinage must either directly 
or indirectly tend to their praise, and even not be 
liable to a malicious construction to their disad 
vantage. But here, too, great attention must be had 
to the difference of age, rank, and situation. A 
tnarechale of fifty must not be played with like a 
young coquette of fifteen; respect and serious en 
jouement, if I may couple those two words, must 
be used with the former, and mere badinage, zeste 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 311 

meme d'un pen de polissonerie, is pardonable with 
the latter. [Same date.] 

HORSE-LAUGHTER. Loud laughter is extremely 
inconsistent with les bienseances, as it is only the 
illiberal and noisy testimony of the joy of the mob, 
at some very silly thing. A gentleman is often seen, 
but very seldom heard, to laugh. Nothing is more 
contrary to les bienseances than horse-play, or jeux 
de main of any kind whatever, and has often very 
serious, sometimes very fatal consequences. Romp 
ing, struggling, throwing things at one another's 
head, are the becoming pleasantries of the mob, but 
degrade a gentleman; ginoco di mano, giuoco di 
villano, is a very true saying, among the few true 
sayings of the Italians. 

There is a bienseance also with regard to people 
of the lowest degree; a gentleman observes it with 
his footman, even with the beggar in the street. He 
considers them as objects of compassion, not of 
insult; he speaks to neither d'un ton brusque, but 
corrects the one coolly, and refuses the other with 
humanity. There is no one occasion in the world 
in which le ton brusque is becoming a gentleman. 
In short, les bienseances are another word for man 
ners. [Same date.'} 

THE Two AGES. Now that all tumultuous pas- 



312 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEES. 

sions and quick sensations have subsided with me, 
and that I have no tormenting cares nor boisterous 
pleasures to agitate me, my greatest joy is to con 
sider the fair prospect you have before you,, and to 
hope and believe you will enjoy it. You are already 
in the world, at an age when others have hardly 
heard of it. Your character is hitherto not only 
unblemished in its moral part, but even unsullied 
by any low, dirty, and ungentlemanlike vice; and 
will, I hope, continue so. Your knowledge is sound, 
extensive, and avowed, especially in everything rela 
tive to your destination. With such materials to 
begin, what then is wanting? Not fortune, as you 
have found by experience. You have had, and shall 
have, fortune sufficient to assist your merit and 
your industry; and, if I can help it, you never shall 
have enough to make you negligent of either. You 
have, too, mens sana in corpore sano, the greatest 
blessing of all. All, therefore, that you want is as 
much in your power to acquire, as to eat your 
breakfast when set before you ; it is only that knowl 
edge of .the world, that elegancy of manners, that 
universal politeness, and those graces, which keep 
ing good company, and seeing variety of places and 
characters, must inevitably, with the least attention 
on your part, give you. Your foreign destination 
leads to the greatest things, and your parliamentary 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 313 

situation will facilitate your progress ; consider then 
this pleasing prospect as attentively for yourself, 
as I consider it for you. Labor on your part to 
realize it, as I will on mine to assist and enable you 
to do it. Nullum numen abest, si sit prudentia. 
[Same date.] 

A REFERENCE AT COURT. I would wish you to 
be able to talk upon all these things, better and with 
more knowledge than other people; insomuch that, 
upon those occasions, you should be applied to, and 
that people should say, / dare say Mr. Stanhope can 
tell us. Second-rate knowledge, and middling talents, 
carry a man farther at courts, and in the busy part 
of the world, than superior knowledge and shining 
parts. Tacitus very justly accounts for a man's 
having always kept in favor, and enjoyed the best 
employments, under the tyrannical reigns of three 
or four of the very worst emperors, by saying that it 
was not propter aliquant exiiniam artem, sed quia 
par negotiis neque supra erat. Discretion is the 
great article; all those things are to be learned and 
only learned by keeping a great deal of the best com 
pany. Frequent those good houses where you have 
already a footing, and wriggle yourself somehow or 
other into every other. Haunt the courts particu 
larly, in order to get that routine. [June 20, 



314 CHESTEKFIELD'S LETTEES. 

FRENCH AND ENGLISH HUNTING. Our abbe 
writes me word that you were gone to Compiegne; 
I am very glad of it; other courts must form you 
for your own. He tells me, too, that you have left 
off riding at the manege; I have no objection to that, 
it takes up a great deal of the morning; and if you 
have got a genteel and firm seat on horseback, it is 
enough for you, now that tilts and tournaments are 
laid aside. I suppose you have hunted at Com 
piegne. The king's hunting there, I am told, is a 
fine sight. The French manner of hunting is gentle 
manlike; ours is only for bumpkins and boobies. 
The poor beasts here are pursued and run down by 
much greater beasts than themselves; and the true 
British fox-hunter is most undoubtedly a species 
appropriated and peculiar to this country, which no 
other part of the globe produces. [June 50, -r/5-f.] 

POLITE AFFECTION. Remember to bring your 
mother some little presents; they need not be of 
value, but only marks of your affection and duty for 
one who has always been tenderly fond of you. You 
may bring Lady Chesterfield a little Martin snuff 
box, of about five louis ; and you need bring over no 
other presents ; you and I not wanting les petits pre- 
sens pour entretenir I'amitie. [July 8, 



INATTENTION. Laziness of mind, or inattention, 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 315 

are as great enemies to knowledge, as incapacity; 
for, in truth, what difference is there between a man 
who will not, and a man who cannot, be informed? 
This difference only, that the former is justly to be 
blamed, and the latter to be pitied. And yet how 
many are there, very capable of receiving knowl 
edge, who, from laziness, inattention, and incurious- 
ness, will not so much as ask for it, much less take 
the least pains to acquire it. 

Our young English travellers generally distin 
guish themselves by a voluntary privation of all that 
useful knowledge for which they are sent abroad; 
and yet, at that age, the most useful knowledge is 
the most easy to be acquired ; conversation being the 
book, and the best book, in which it is contained. 
[Jan. 2, 1752.] 

THE DRAMA. I could wish there were a treaty 
made between the French and the English theatres, 
in which both parties should make considerable con 
cessions. The English ought to give up their notori 
ous violations of all the unities; and all their mas 
sacres, racks, dead bodies, and mangled carcasses, 
which they so frequently exhibit upon their stage. 
The French should engage to have more action, and 
less declamation ; and not to cram and crowd things 
together to almost a degree of impossibility, from a 



316 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

too scrupulous adherence to the unities. The Eng 
lish should restrain the licentiousness of their poets, 
and the French enlarge the liberty of theirs: their 
poets are the greatest slaves in their country, and 
that is a bold word; ours are the most tumultuous 
subjects in England, and that is saying a good deal. 
Under such regulations, one might hope to see a 
play, in which one should not be lulled to sleep by the 
length of a monotonical declamation, nor frightened 
and shocked by the barbarity of the action. The 
unity of time extended occasionally to three or four 
days, and the unity of place broke into, as far as 
the same street, or sometimes the same town; both 
which, I will affirm, are as probable, as four-and- 
twenty hours, and the same room. 

More indulgence, too, in my mind, should be 
shown, than the French are willing to allow, to 
bright thoughts, and to shining images ; for though 
I confess, it is not very natural for a hero or a 
princess to say fine things, in all the violence of grief, 
love, rage, etc., yet I can as well suppose that, as I 
can that they should talk to themselves for half an 
hour ; which they must necessarily do, or no tragedy 
could be carried on, unless they had recourse to a 
much greater absurdity, the choruses of the ancient c 
Tragedy is of a nature, that one must see it with j 
degree of self-deception; we must lend ourselves, a 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 317 

little, to the delusion ; and I am very willing to carry 
that complaisance a little further than the French do. 

Tragedy must be something bigger than life, or 
it would not affect us. In nature the most violent 
passions are silent ; in tragedy they must speak, and 
speak with dignity, too. Hence the necessity of 
their being written in verse, and, unfortunately for 
the French, from the weakness of their language, in 
rhymes. And for the same reason, Cato, the Stoic, 
expiring at Utica, rhymes masculine and feminine,* 
at Paris ; and fetches his last breath at London, in 
most harmonious and correct blank verse. 

It is quite otherwise with comedy, which should 
be mere common life, and not one jot bigger. Every 
character should speak upon the stage, not only 
what it would utter in the situation there repre 
sented, but in the same manner in which it would 
express it. For which reason, I cannot allow rhymes 
in comedy, unless they were put into the mouth and 
came out of the mouth of a mad poet. But it is 
impossible to deceive one's self enough (nor is it 
the least necessary in comedy) to suppose a dull 
rogue of a usurer cheating, or gros Jean blundering, 
in the finest rhymes in the world. 

As for operas, they are essentially too absurd and 

* As to terminations, so careful were the best French poets 
of their rhymes. ' 



318 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

extravagant to mention: I look upon them as a 
magic scene, contrived to please the eyes and the 
ears, at the expense of the understanding; and I 
consider singing, rhyming, and chiming heroes, and 
princesses, and philosophers, as I do the hills, the 
trees, the birds, and the beasts, who amicably joined 
in one common country dance, to the irresistible 
tune of Orpheus's lyre. Whenever I go to an opera, 
I leave my sense and reason at the door with my 
half guinea, and deliver myself up to my eyes and 
my ears. [Jan. 23, 1752.'] 

RIDICULE. It is commonly said, and more par 
ticularly by Lord Shaftesbury, that ridicule is the 
best test of truth; for that it will not stick where it 
is not just. I deny it.* A truth learned in a cer 
tain light, and attacked in certain words by men of 
wit and humor, may, and often doth, become ridic- 

* Chesterfield had at once perceived the emptiness of the say 
ing, which is certainly not in ipsissimis verbis of Lord Shaftes 
bury. "We have," says Carlyle, in his "Essay on Voltaire," 
"oftener than once endeavored to attach some meaning to that 
aphorism, vulgarly imputed to Shaftesbury which, however, 
we can find nowhere in his works, that ridicule is the test of 
truth." In the "Characteristics of Enthusiasm," sec. 2, there 
is this sentence, which comes very near it : "How is it, etc., 
that we (Christians) appear such cowards in reasoning, and 
are so afraid to stand the test of ridicule"; but further on (p. 
ii, ed. 1733, vol. i.) he asks : "For what ridicule can lie against 
reason? or how can any one of the least justice of thought 
admire a ridicule wrong placed? Nothing is more ridiculous 
than this itself." Shaftesbury often returns to this subject; 
see "Errors in Wit," etc. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 319 

ulous, at least so far, that the truth is only remem 
bered and repeated for the sake of the ridicule. The 
overturn of Mary of Medicis into a river, where 
she was half drowned, would never have been re 
membered, if Madame de Vernueil, who saw it, had 
not said la Reine boit. Pleasure or malignity often 
gives ridicule a weight, which it does not deserve. 
[Same date.] 

COMEDIES. I chiefly mind dialogue and char 
acter in comedies. Let dull critics feed the carcasses 
of plays ; give me the taste and the dressing. [Feb. 



THE WEIGHT OF Low PEOPLE. In courts a uni 
versal gentleness and douceur dans les manieres is 
most absolutely necessary: an offended fool, or a 
slighted valet de chambre, may, very possibly, do 
more hurt at court, than ten men of merit can do 
you good. Fools, and low people, are always jeal 
ous of their dignity; and never forget nor forgive 
what they reckon a slight. [Same date.] 

AT COURT. There is a court garment, as well 
as a wedding garment, without which you will not 
be received. That garment is the volto sciolto : an 
imposing air, an elegant politeness, easy and engag 
ing manners, universal attention, an insinuating 



320 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

gentleness, and all those je ne sals quoi that com 
pose the graces. [Same date.} 

PERFECTION. In all systems whatsoever, 
whether of religion, government, morals, etc., per 
fection is the object always proposed, though pos 
sibly unattainable; hitherto, at least, certainly unat- 
tained. However, those who aim carefully at the 
mark itself, will unquestionably come nearer to it 
than those who, from despair, negligence, or indo 
lence, leave to chance the work of skill. This maxim 
holds equally true in common life; those who aim 
at perfection will come infinitely nearer it than those 
desponding or indolent spirits, who foolishly say to 
themselves, nobody is perfect; perfection is unat 
tainable; to attempt it is chimerical; I shall do as 
well as others; why then should I give myself 
trouble to be what I never can, and what, according 
to the common course of things, I need not be, per 
fect? [Feb. 20, 1752.] 

OMNIS HOMO. I would have him -have lustre 
as well as weight. Did you ever know anybody that 
reunited all these talents ? Yes, I did ; Lord Boling- 
broke joined all the politeness, the manners, and the 
graces of a courtier, to the solidity of a statesman, 
and to the learning of a pedant. He was omnis 
homo; and pray what should hinder my boy of 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 321 

doing so too, if he hath, as I think he hath, all the 
other qualifications that you allow him ? [Some 
date.} 

KNOWLEDGE OF LITERATURE. A gentleman 
should know those which I call classical works, in 
every language : such as Boileau, Corneille, Racine, 
Moliere, etc., in French; Milton, Dryden, Pope, 
Swift, etc., in English; and the three authors above 
mentioned* in Italian : whether you have any such 
in German I am not quite sure, nor, indeed, am I 
inquisitive. These sort of books adorn the mind, 
improve the fancy, are frequently alluded to by, and 
are often the subjects of conversations of, the best 
companies. As you have languages to read, and 
memory to retain them, the knowledge of them is 
very well worth the little pains it will cost you, and 
will enable you to shine in company. It is not pe 
dantic to quote and allude to them, which it would 
be with regard to the ancients. [March 2, 1752.} 

NOTHING BY HALVES. Whatever business you 
have, do it the first moment you can; never by 
halves, but finish it without interruption, if possible. 
Business must not be sauntered and trifled with ; and 
you must not say to it, as Felix did to Paul, "at a 

* Ariosto, Tasso, and Boccaccio : the Orlando, Gierusa- 
lemme, and Decamerone. 



322 CHESTEBFIELD'S LETTERS. 

more convenient season I will speak to thee." The 
most convenient season for business is the first; but 
study and business, in some measure, point out their 
own times to a man of sense; time is much oftener 
squandered away in the wrong choice and improper 
methods of amusement and pleasures. [March 5, 



FORMATION OF MANNERS. Nothing forms a 
young man so much as being used to keep respect 
able and superior company, where a constant regard 
and attention is necessary. It is true, this is at first 
a disagreeable state of restraint; but it soon grows 
habitual, and consequently easy; and you are amply 
paid for it, by the improvement you make, and the 
credit it gives you. [Same dateJ\ 

THE BEST SCHOOL. Company, various com 
pany, is the only school for this knowledge. You 
ought to be, by this time, at least in the third form 
of that school, from whence the rise to the upper 
most is easy and quick; but then you must have 
application and vivacity, you must not only bear 
with, but even seek, restraint in some companies, 
instead of stagnating in one or two only, where 
indolence and love of ease may be indulged. [March 
16, 1752.} 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 323 

CHESTERFIELD'S PROPHECY. I do not know what 
the Lord's anointed, His vicegerent upon earth, 
divinely appointed by Him, and accountable to none 
but Him for his actions, will either think or do, 
upon these symptoms of reason and good-sense, 
which seem to be breaking out all over France; but 
this I foresee, that before the end of this century, 
the trade of both king and priest will not be half so 
good a one as it has been. Du Clos, in his reflec 
tions, hath observed, and very truly, qu'il y a un 
germe de raison qui commence a se developper en 
France. A developpement that must prove fatal to 
regal and papal pretensions. Prudence may, in 
many cases, recommend an occasional submission 
to either; but when that ignorance, upon which an 
implicit faith in both could only be founded, is once 
removed, God's vicegerent, and Christ's vicar, will 
only be obeyed and believed, as far as what the one 
orders, and the other says, is conformable to reason 
and to truth. [April 13, 



SMALL CHANGE. In common life, one much 
oftener wants small money, and silver, than gold. 
Give me a man who has ready cash about him for 
present expenses, shillings, half-crowns, and crowns, 
which circulate easily; but a man who has only an 
ingot of gold about him is much above common pur- 



324 CHESTEEFIELD'S LETTEES. 

poses, and his riches are not handy nor convenient. 
Have as much gold as you please in one pocket, but 
take care always to keep change in the other; for 
you will much oftener have occasion for a shilling 
than for a guinea. [Sept. ip, 



MAXIMS. My dear friend, I never think my 
time so well employed, as when I think it employed 
to your advantage. In that view, I have thrown to 
gether, for your use, the enclosed maxims* ; or, to 
speak more properly, observations of men and 
things; for I have no merit as to the invention; I 
am no system-monger; and, instead of giving way 
to my imagination, I have only consulted my mem 
ory ; and my conclusions are all drawn from facts, 
not from fancy. Most maxim-mongers have pre 
ferred the prettiness to the justness of a thought, 
and the turn to the truth ; but I have refused myself 
to everything that my own experience did not justify 
and confirm. [Jan. 15, 175 J.] 

A WET SUMMER. There never was so wet a 
summer as this has been, in the memory of man; 
we have not had one single day, since March, with 
out some rain; but most days a great deal. I hope 
that does not affect your health, as great cold does ; 
* See "Maxims," p. 328. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 325 

for, with all these inundations, it has not been cold. 
God bless you! [Aug. i, 1766.] 

THE LAST GREETING. Poor Harte is in a miser 
able condition, is paralyzed in his left side, and can 
hardly speak intelligibly. I was with him yesterday. 
He inquired after you with great affection, and was 
in the utmost concern when I showed him your 
letter. 

My own health is, as it has been ever since I was 
here last year. I am neither well nor ill, but unwell. 
I have, in a manner, lost the use of my legs; for 
though I can make a shift to crawl upon even ground 
for a quarter of an hour, I cannot go up or down 
stairs, unless supported by a servant. 

God bless and grant you a speedy recovery! 
[Oct. 17, 1768.} 

Here end the letters to Mr. Stanhope, as he died the i6th of 
November following. 

To Mrs. Stanhope, then at Paris. 

MADAM : A troublesome and painful inflamma 
tion in my eyes obliges me to use another hand than 
my own to acknowledge the receipt of your letter 
from Avignon, of the 2/th past. 

I am extremely surprised that Mrs. du Bouchet 
should have any objection to the manner in which 



326 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

your late husband desired to be buried, and which 
you, very properly, complied with. All I desire for 
my own burial is not to be buried alive; but how 
or where, I think, must be entirely indifferent to 
every rational creature. 

I have no commission to trouble you with during 
your stay at Paris, from whence I wish you and the 
boys a good journey home, where I shall be very 
glad to see you all, and assure you of my being, with 
great truth, your faithful, humble servant, CHESTER 
FIELD. [March i6 y 1769.] 

To the same, at London. 

MADAM : The last time I had the pleasure of 
seeing you I was so taken up in playing with the 
boys that I forgot their more important affairs. 
How soon would you have them placed at school? 
When I know your pleasure as to that, I will send 
to Monsieur Perny to prepare everything for their 
reception. In the meantime, I beg that you will 
equip them thoroughly with clothes, linen, etc., all 
good, but plain, and give me the account, which I 
will pay, for I do not intend that from this time 
forward, the two boys should cost you one shilling. 
I am, with great truth, madam, your faithful, 
humble servant, CHESTERFIELD. [Wednesday.] 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 327 

STANHOPE'S CHILDREN. Charles will be a 
scholar, if you please, but our little Philip, without 
being one, will be something' or other as good, 
though I do not yet guess what. I am not of the 
opinion generally entertained in this country, that 
man lives by Greek and Latin alone; that is, by 
knowing a great many words of two dead languages, 
which nobody living knows perfectly, and which are 
of no use in the common intercourse of life. Useful 
knowledge, in my opinion, consists of modern lan 
guages, history, and geography; some Latin may 
be thrown into the bargain, in compliance with cus 
tom, and for closet amusement. 

You are by this time certainly tired with this 
long letter, which I could prove to you from Hor 
ace's own words (for I am a scholar) to be a bad 
one; he says that water drinkers can write nothing 
good, so I am, with real truth and esteem, your most 
faithful, humble servant, CHESTERFIELD. [Nov. 
4, 1770.] 

To Charles and Philip Stanhope. 

THE LAST LETTER. I received, a few days ago, 
two, the best-written letters that I ever saw in my 
life: the one signed Charles Stanhope, the other 
Philip Stanhope. As for you, Charles, I do not 



328 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEES. 

wonder at it ; for you will take pains, and are a lover 
of letters: but you idle rogue, you Phil, how came 
you to write so well, that one can almost say of you 
two, et cantare pares et respondere parati? Charles 
will explain this Latin to you. 

I am told, Phil, that you have got a nickname at 
school, from your intimacy with Master Strange- 
ways ; and that they call you Master Strangerways; 
for, to be sure, you are a strange boy. Is this true? 

Tell me what you would have me bring you both 
from hence, and I will bring it to you when I come 
to town. In the meantime, God bless you both! 
CHESTERFIELD. [Bath, Oct. 27, 



MAXIMS.* 

A PROPER secrecy is the only mystery of able men ; 
mystery is the only secrecy of weak and cunning 
ones. 

A man who tells nothing, or who tells all, will 
equally have nothing told him. 

If a fool knows a secret, he tells it because he is 
a fool ; if a knave knows one, he tells it wherever it 
is his interest to tell it. But women and young men 
* These maxims are referred to on page 324. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 329 

are very apt to tell what secrets they know, from the 
vanity of having been trusted. Trust none of these, 
whenever you can help it. 

Inattention to the present business, be it what it 
will ; the doing one thing, and thinking at the same 
time of another, or the attempting to do two things 
at once, are the never-failing signs of a little, friv 
olous mind. 

A man who cannot command his temper, his at 
tention, and his countenance, should not think of 
being a man of business. The weakest man in the 
world can avail himself of the passion of the wisest. 
The inattentive man cannot know the business, and 
consequently cannot do it. And he who cannot 
command his countenance, may e'en as well tell 
his thoughts as show them. 

Distrust all those who love you extremely upon 
a very slight acquaintance, and without any visible 
reason. Be upon your guard, too, against those, 
who confess, as their weaknesses, all the cardinal 
virtues. 

In your friendships, and in your enmities, let 
your confidence and your hostilities have certain 
bounds: make not the former dangerous, nor the 
latter irreconcilable. There are strange vicissitudes 
in business ! 

Smooth your way to the head, through the heart 



330 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

The way of reason is a good one; but it is com 
monly something longer, and perhaps not so sure. 

Spirit is now a very fashionable word: to act 
with spirit, to speak with spirit, means only, to act 
rashly, and to talk indiscreetly. An able man shows 
his spirit by gentle words and resolute actions: he 
is neither hot nor timid. 

When a man of sense happens to be in that dis 
agreeable situation, in which he is obliged to ask 
himself more than once, What shall I do? he will 
answer himself, Nothing. When his reason points 
out to him no good way, or at least no one way less 
bad than another, he will stop short, and wait for 
light. A little busy mind runs on at all events, must 
be doing; and, like a blind horse, fears no dangers 
because he sees none. II faut savoir s'ennuyer. 

Patience is a most necessary qualification for 
business; many a man would rather you heard his 
story than granted his request. One must seem to 
hear the unreasonable demands of the petulant, un 
moved, and the tedious details of the dull, untired. 
That is the least price a man must pay for a high 
station. 

It is always right to detect a fraud, and to per 
ceive a folly; but it is often very wrong to expose 
either. A man of business should always have his 
eyes open ; but must often seem to have them shut. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 331 

In courts, nobody should be below your manage 
ment and attention: the links that form the court- 
chain are innumerable and inconceivable. You 
must hear with patience the dull grievances of a 
gentleman usher, or a page of the back-stairs ; who, 
very probably, lies with some near relation of the 
favorite maid, of the favorite mistress, of the favor 
ite minister, or perhaps of the king himself; and 
who, consequently, may do you more dark or indi 
rect good, or harm, than the first man of quality. 

One good patron at court may be sufficient, pro 
vided you have no personal enemies ; and, in order to 
have none, you must sacrifice (as the Indians do to 
the Devil) most of your passions, and much of your 
time, to the numberless evil beings that infest it; 
in order to prevent and avert the mischiefs they 
can do you. 

A young man, be his merit what it will, can never 
raise himself; but must, like the ivy round the oak, 
twine himself round some man of great power and 
interest. You must belong to a minister some time, 
before anybody will belong to you. And an invio 
lable fidelity to that minister, even in his disgrace, 
will be meritorious, and recommend you to the 
next. Ministers love a personal, much more than a 
party attachment. 

As kings are begotten and born like other men, 



332 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEES. 

it is to be presumed that they are of the human 
species; and perhaps, had they the same education, 
they might prove like other men. But, flattered 
from their cradles, their hearts are corrupted, and 
their heads are turned, so that they seem to be a 
species by themselves. No king ever said to him 
self : Homo sum, nihil humani a me alienum puto. " 

Flattery cannot be too strong for them; drunk 
with it from their infancy, like old drinkers, they 
require drams. 

They prefer a personal attachment to a public 
service, and reward it better. They are vain and 
weak enough to look upon it as a free-will offering 
to their merit, and not as a burnt sacrifice to their 
power. 

If you would be a favorite of your king, ad 
dress yourself to his weaknesses. An application to 
his reason will seldom prove very successful. 

In courts, bashfulness and timidity are as preju 
dicial on one hand, as impudence and rashness are 
on the other. A steady assurance, and a cool intre 
pidity, with an exterior modesty, are the true and 
necessary medium. 

Never apply for what you see very little proba 
bility of obtaining; for you will, by asking improper 
and unattainable things, accustom the ministers to 
refuse you so often, that they will find it easy to 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 333 

refuse you the properest and most reasonable ones. 
It is a common but a most mistaken rule at court, 
to ask for everything-, in order to get something : you 
do get something by it, it is true ; but that something 
is refusals and ridicule. 

There is a court jargon, a chit-chat, a small talk, 
which turns singly upon trifles; and which, in a 
great many words, says little or nothing. It stands 
fools instead of what they cannot say, and men of 
sense instead of what they should not say. It is 
the proper language of levees, drawing-rooms, and 
ante-chambers ; it is necessary to know it. 

Whatever a man is at court, he must be genteel 
and well-bred; that cloak covers as many follies, as 
that of charity does sins. I knew a man of great 
quality, and in a great station at court, considered 
and respected, whose highest character was, that he 
was humbly proud, and genteelly dull. 

It is hard to say which is the greatest fool; he 
who tells the whole truth, or he who tells no truth at 
all. Character is as necessary in business as in trade. 
No man can deceive often in either. 

At court, people embrace without acquaintance, 
serve one another without friendship, and injure one 
another without hatred. Interest, not sentiment, is 
the growth of that soil. 

A difference of opinion, though in the merest 



334 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

trifles, alienates little minds, especially of high rank. 
It is full as easy to commend as to blame a great 
man's cook, or his tailor ; it is shorter, too ; and the 
objects are no more worth disputing about, than the 
people are worth disputing with. It is impossible to 
inform, but very easy to displease them. 

A cheerful, easy countenance and behavior are 
very useful at court ; they make fools think you are 
a good-natured man ; and they make designing men 
think you are an undesigning one. 

There are some occasions in which a man must 
tell half his secret, in order to conceal the rest ; but 
there is seldom one in which a man should tell it 
all. Great skill is necessary to know how far to go, 
and where to stop. 

Ceremony is necessary in courts, as the outwork 
and defence of manners. 

Flattery, though a base coin, is the necessary 
pocket-money at court; where, by custom and con 
sent, it has obtained such a currency, that it is no 
longer a fraudulent, but a legal payment. 

If a minister refuses you a reasonable request, and 
either slights or injures you, if you have not the 
power to gratify your resentment, have the wisdom 
to conceal and dissemble it. Seeming good-humor 
on your part may prevent rancor on his, and perhaps 
bring things aright again ; but if you have the power 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 335 

to hurt, hint modestly that, if provoked, you may 
possibly have the will too. Fear, when real, and 
well founded, is perhaps a more prevailing motive 
at courts than love. 

At court, many more people can hurt, than can 
help you ; please the former, but engage the latter. 

Awkwardness is a more real disadvantage than it 
is generally thought to be; it often occasions ridi 
cule, it always lessens dignity. 

A man's own good-breeding is his best security 
against other people's ill-manners. 

Good-breeding carries along with it a dignity, 
that is respected by the most petulant. Ill-breeding 
invites and authorizes the familiarity of the most 
timid. No man ever said a pert thing to the Duke 
of Marlborough. No man ever said a civil one 
(though many a flattering one) to Sir Robert Wai- 
pole. 

When the old clipped money was called in for a 
new coinage in King William's time, to prevent the 
like for the future, they stamped on the edges of 
the crown pieces these words, et decus et tutamen. 
That is exactly the case of good-breeding. 

Knowledge may give weight, but accomplish 
ments only give lustre; and many more people see 
than weigh. 

Most arts require long study and application ; but 



336 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTEES. 

the most useful art of all, that of pleasing, requires 
only the desire. 

It is to be presumed that a man of common-sense, 
who does not desire to please, desires nothing at 
all, since he must know that he cannot obtain any 
thing without it. 

A skilful negotiator will most carefully distin 
guish between the little and the great objects of his 
business, and will be as frank and open in the former 
as he will be secret and pertinacious in the latter. 

He will, by his manners and address, endeavor, 
at least, to make his public adversaries his personal 
friends. He will flatter and engage the man, while 
he counterworks the minister; and he will never 
alienate people's minds from him, by wrangling for 
points, either absolutely unattainable, or not worth 
attaining. He will make even a merit of giving up 
what he could not or would not carry, and sell a 
trifle for a thousand times its value. 

A foreign minister, who is concerned in great 
affairs, must necessarily have spies in his pay; but 
he must not too easily credit their informations, 
which are never exactly true, often very false. His 
best spies will always be those whom he does not 
pay, but whom he has engaged in his service by his 
dexterity and address, and who think themselves 
nothing less than spies. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 337 

There is a certain jargon which in French I 
should call un persiflage d'affaires, that a foreign 
minister ought to be perfectly master of, and may 
use very advantageously at great entertainments in 
mixed companies, and in all occasions where he 
must speak and should say nothing. Well turned 
and well spoken, it seems to mean something, though 
in truth it means nothing. It is a kind of political 
badinage, which prevents or removes a thousand dif 
ficulties to which a foreign minister is exposed in 
mixed conversations. 

If ever the volto sciolto and the pensieri stretti 
are necessary, they are so in these affairs. A grave, 
dark, reserved, and mysterious air has f&num in 
cornu. An even, easy, unembarrassed one invites 
confidence, and leaves no room for guesses and con 
jectures. 

Both stimulation and dissimulation are absolutely 
necessary for a foreign minister; and yet they must 
stop short of falsehood and perfidy: that middle 
point is the difficult one : there ability consists. He 
must often seem pleased, when he is vexed; and 
grave, when he is pleased; but he must never say 
either: that would be falsehood an indelible stain 
to character. 

A foreign minister should be a most exact econ 
omist. An expense proportioned to his appoint- 



338 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

ments and fortune is necessary; but, on the other 
hand, debt is inevitable ruin to him. It sinks him 
into disgrace at the court where he resides, and into 
the most servile and abject dependence on the court 
that sent him. As he cannot resent ill usage, he is 
sure to have enough of it. 

The Due de Sully observes very justly, in his 
Memoirs, that nothing contributed more to his rise, 
than that prudent economy which he had observed 
from his youth, and by which he had always a sum 
of money beforehand, in case of emergencies. 

It is. very difficult to fix the particular point of 
economy; the best error of the two is on the par 
simonious side. That may be corrected; the other 
cannot. 

The reputation of generosity is to be purchased 
pretty cheap; it does not depend so much upon a 
man's general expense, as it does upon his giving 
handsomely where it is proper to give at all. A 
man, for instance, who should give a servant four 
shillings would pass for covetous, while he who gave 
him a crown would be reckoned generous; so that 
the difference of those two opposite characters turns 
upon one shilling. A man's character, in that partic 
ular, depends a great deal upon the report of his 
own servants; a mere trifle above common wages 
makes their report favorable. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 339 

Take care always to form your establishment so 
much within your income as to leave a sufficient 
fund for unexpected contingencies and a prudent 
liberality. There is hardly a year, in any man's life, 
in which a small sum of ready money may not be 
employed to great advantage. 



POLITICAL MAXIMS FROM CARDINAL DE 
RETZ.* 

IT is often madness to engage in a conspiracy; 
but nothing is so effectual to bring people afterward 
to their senses, at least for a time. As in such un 
dertakings, the danger subsists, even after the busi 
ness is over ; this obliges to be prudent and circum 
spect in the succeeding moments. 

2. A middling understanding, being susceptible 
of unjust suspicions, is consequently, of all charac 
ters, the least fit to head a faction ; as the most indis 
pensable qualification in such a chief is to suppress, 
in many occasions, and to conceal in all, even the 
best grounded suspicions. 

* Upon the back of the original is written, in Mr. Stanhope's 
hand, "Excellent Maxims, but more calculated for the merid 
ian of France or Spain than of England." 



340 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

3. Nothing animates and gives strength to a com 
motion so much as the ridicule of him against whom 
it is raised. 

4. Among people used to affairs of moment, 
secrecy is much less uncommon than is generally 
believed. 

5. Descending to the little is the surest way of 
attaining to an equality with the great. 

6. Fashion, though powerful in all things, is not 
more so in any, than in being well or ill at court. 
There are times when disgrace is a kind of fire, that 
purifies all bad qualities, and illuminates every good 
one. There are others, in which the being out of 
favor is unbecoming a man of character. 

7. Sufferings, in people of the first rank, supply 
the want of virtue. 

8. There is a confused kind of jumble, which 
practice sometimes teaches; but it is never to be 
understood by speculation. 

9. The greatest powers cannot injure a man's 
character, whose reputation is unblemished among 
his party. 

10. We are as often duped by diffidence, as by 
confidence. 

11. The greatest evils are not arrived at their 
utmost period until those who are in power have 
lost all sense of shame. At such a time those who 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 341 

should obey shake off all respect and subordination. 
Then is lethargic indolence roused; but roused by 
convulsions. 

12. A veil ought always to be drawn over what 
ever may be said or thought concerning the rights of 
the people, or of kings ; which agree best when least 
mentioned.* 

13. There are, at times, situations so very unfor 
tunate, that whatever is undertaken must be wrong. 
Chance, alone, never throws people into such dilem 
mas ; and they happen only to those who bring them 
upon themselves. 

14. It is more unbecoming a minister to say, than 
to do, silly things. 

15. The advice given to a minister, by an obnox 
ious person, is always thought bad. 

1 6. It is as dangerous, and almost as criminal, 
with princes, to have the power of doing good, as 
the will of doing evil. 

17. Timorous minds are much more inclined to 
deliberate than to resolve. 

1 8. It appears ridiculous to assert, but it is not 
the less true, that at Paris, during the popular com 
motions, the most violent will not quit their homes 
past a stated hour. 

* This Maxim, as well as several others, evidently prove 
they were written by a man subject to despotic government. 



342 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

19. Flexibility is the most requisite qualification 
for the management of great affairs. 

20. It is more difficult for the member of a fac 
tion to live with those of his own party, than to act 
against those who oppose it. 

21. The greatest dangers have their allurements, 
if the want of success is likely to be attended with a 
degree of glory. Middling dangers are horrid, when 
the loss of reputation is the inevitable consequence 
of ill success. 

22. Violent measures are always dangerous, but 
when necessary, may then be looked upon as wise. 
They have, however, the advantage of never being 
matter of indifferency; and, when well concerted, 
must be decisive. 

23. There may be circumstances, in which even 
prudence directs us to trust entirely to chance. 

24. Everything in this world has its critical mo 
ment, and the height of good conduct consists in 
knowing and seizing it. 

25. Profligacy, joined to ridicule, forms the most 
abominable and most dangerous of all characters. 

26. Weak minds never yield when they ought. 

27. Variety of sights have the greatest effect upon 
the mob, and also upon numerous assemblies, who, 
in many respects, resemble mobs. 

28. Examples taken from past times have infi- 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 343 

nitely more power over the minds of men, than any 
of the age in which they live. Whatever we see, 
grows familiar; and perhaps the consulship of 
Caligula's horse might not have astonished us so 
much as we are apt to imagine. 

29. Weak minds are commonly overpowered by 
clamor. 

30. We ought never to contend for what we are 
not likely to obtain. 

31. The instant in which we receive the most 
favorable accounts, is just that wherein we ought 
to redouble our vigilance, even in regard to the 
most trifling circumstances. 

32. It is dangerous to have a known influence 
over people ; as thereby we become responsible even 
for what is done against our will. 

33. One of the greatest difficulties in civil war 
is, that more art is required to know what should be 
concealed from our friends, than what ought to 
be done against our enemies. 

34. Nothing lowers a great man so much, as not 
seizing the decisive moment of raising his reputa 
tion. This is seldom neglected, but with a view to 
fortune ; by which mistake, it is not unusual to miss 
both. 

35. The possibility of remedying imprudent ac 
tions is commonly an inducement to commit them. 



344= CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

36. Every numerous assembly is a mob; conse 
quently everything there depends upon instantane 
ous turns. 

37. Whatever measure seems hazardous, and is 
in reality not so, is generally a wise one. 

38. Irresolute minds always adopt with facility 
whatever measure can admit of different issues, and 
consequently do not require an absolute decision. 

39. In momentous affairs, no step is indifferent. 

40. There are times in which certain people are 
always in the right. 

41. Nothing convinces persons of a weak under 
standing so effectually as what they do not compre 
hend. 

42. When factions are only upon the defensive, 
they ought never to do that which may be delayed. 
Upon such occasions, nothing is so troublesome as 
the restlessness of subalterns; who think a state of 
inaction total destruction. 

43. Those who head factions have no way of 
maintaining their authority, but by preventing or 
quieting discontent. 

44. A certain degree of fear produces the same 
effects as rashness. 

45. In affairs of importance, the choice of words 
is of as much consequence, as it would be superfluous 
in those of little moment. 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 345 

46. During those calms which immediately suc 
ceed violent storms, nothing is more difficult for 
ministers than to act properly; because, while flat 
tery increases, suspicions are not yet subsided. 

47. The faults of our friends ought never to 
anger us so far as to give an advantage to our 
enemies. 

48. The talent of insinuation is more useful than 
that of persuasion, as everybody is open to insinu 
ation, but scarce any to persuasion. 

49. In matters of a delicate nature, all unneces 
sary alterations are dangerous, because odious. 

50. The best way to compel weak-minded people 
to adopt our opinion, is to frighten them from all 
others, by magnifying their danger. 

51. We must run all hazards, where we think our 
selves in a situation to reap some advantage, even 
from the want of success. 

52. Irresolute men are diffident in resolving upon 
the means, even when they are determined upon the 
end. 

53. It is almost a sure game, with crafty men, to 
make them believe we intend to deceive those whom 
we mean to serve. 

54. One of the greatest difficulties with princes 
is in the being often obliged, in order to serve them, 



346 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

to give advice, the true reasons of which we dare 
not mention. 

55. The saying things which we foresee will not 
be pleasing, can only be softened by the greatest 
appearance of sincerity. 

56. We ought never to trifle with favor. If real, 
we should hastily seize the advantage ; if pretended, 
avoid the allurement. 

57. It is very inconsequent to enter into engage 
ments upon suppositions we think impossible, and 
yet it is very usual. 

58. The generality of mankind pay less attention 
to arguments urged against their opinion, thap to 
such as may engage the disputant to adopt their 
own. 

59. In times of faction and intrigue, whatever 
appears inert is reckoned mysterious by those who 
are not accustomed to affairs of moment. 

60. It is never allowable in an inferior to equal 
himself in words to a superior, although he may 
rival him in actions. 

61. Every man whom chance alone has, by some 
accident, made a public character, hardly ever fails 
of becoming, in a short time, a ridiculous private 
one. 

62. The greatest imperfection of men is the com 
placency with which they are willing to think others 



SENTENCES AND MAXIMS. 347 

not free from faults, of which they are themselves 
conscious. 

63. Experience only can teach men not to prefer 
what strikes them for the present moment, to what 
will have much greater weight with them hereafter. 

64. In the management of important business, all 
turn to raillery must be more carefully avoided than 
in any other. 

65. In momentous transactions, words cannot be 
sufficiently weighed. 

66. The permanency of most friendships depends 
upon the continuity of good fortune. 

67. Whoever assembles the multitude will raise 
commotions. 



LORD CHESTERFIELD'S REMARKS UPON 
THE FOREGOING MAXIMS. 

I HAVE taken the trouble of extracting and col 
lecting, for your use, the foregoing Political 
Maxims of the Cardinal de Retz, in his Memoirs. 
They are not aphorisms of his invention, but the 
true and just observations of his own experience, in 
the course of great business. My own experience 
attests the truth of them all. Read them over with 
attention as here above, and then read with the 



348 CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS. 

same attention, and tout de suite, the Memoirs, 
where you will find the facts and characters from 
whence those observations are drawn, or to which 
they are applied; and they will reciprocally help to 
fix each other in your mind. I hardly know any 
book so necessary for a young man to read and 
remember. You will there find how great business 
is really carried on; very differently from what 
people, who have never been concerned in it, imag 
ine. You will there see what courts and courtiers 
really are, and observe that they are neither so good 
as they should be, nor so bad as they are thought 
by most people. The court poet, and the sullen, 
cloistered pedant, are equally mistaken in their 
notions, or at least in the accounts they give us of 
them. You will observe the coolness in general, the 
perfidy in some cases, and the truth in a very few, of 
court friendships. This will teach you the prudence 
of a general distrust, and the imprudence of making 
no exception to that rule, upon good and tried 
grounds. You will see the utility of good-breeding 
toward one's greatest enemies, and the high impru 
dence and folly of either insulting or injurious ex 
pressions. 



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Mysterious Island. Jules Verne. 
Natural Law in the Spiritual 

World. Henry Drummond. 
Nellie's Memories. Rosa N. Carey. 
Newcomes. By W. M. Thackeray. 
Nicholas Nickleby. Chas. Dickens. 
Ninety-Three. By Victor Hugo. 
Not Like Other Girls. By Rosa 
N. Carey. 



No Name. By Wilkie Collins. 
Odyssey. Pope's Translation. 
Old Curiosity Shop. By Charlea 

Dickens. 
Old Mam'selle's Secret. By E. 

Marlitt. 

Old Mortality. Sir Walter Scott, 
Old Myddleton's Money. By Mary 

Cecil Hay. 

Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens. 
Only a Word. By George Ebers. 
Only the Governess. By Rosa N. 

Carey. 

On the Heights. B. Auerbach. 
Origin of Species. Chas. Darwin. 
Other Worlds than Ours. Richard 

Proctor. 

Our Bessie. By Rosa N. Carey. 
Our Mutual Friend. By Charlef 

Dickens. 

Pair of Blue Eyes. Thos. Hardy. 
Past and Present. Thos. Carlyle* 
Pathfinder. James F. Cooper. 
Pendennis. W. M. Thackeray. 
Pei-e Goriot. H. de Balzac. 
Peveril of the Peak. By Sir Wal 
ter Scott. 

Phantom Rickshaw, The. Rud 
yard Kipling. 
Phra, The Phoenician. By Edwin 

L. Arnold. 

Picciola. By X. B. Saintine. 
Pickwick Papers. Chas. Dickens, 
Pilgrim's Progress. John Bunyan. 
Pillar of Fire. By Rev. J. H. 

Ingraham. 

Pilot, The. By James F. Cooper. 
Pioneers. By James F. Cooper. 
Pirate. By Sir Walter Scott. 
Plain Tales from the Hills. By 

Rudyard Kipling. 
Poe's Poems. By Edgar A. Poe. 
Pope's Poems. Alexander Pope. 
Prairie. By James F. Cooper. 
Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. 
Prince of the House of David. 

By Rev. J. H. Ingraham. 
Princess of the Moor. E. Marlitt, 
Princess of Thule. Wm. Black. 
Procter's Poems. By Adelaide 

Procter. 

Professor. Charlotte BrontS. 
Prue and I. By Geo. Wm. Curtia 
Queen Hortense. Louisa Muhl 

bach. 

Queenie's Whim. Rosa N. Carey 
Queen's Necklace. Alex. Dumas. 
Quentin Durward. Walter Scott. 
Redgauntlet. Sir Walter Scott. < 
Red Rover. By James F. Coopeft 
Reign of Law. Duke of Argyle 
Reveries of a Bachelor. By II 

Marvel. 

Reynard the Fox. Joseph Jacobs. 
Rhoda Fleming. By George Mef- 

edith. 

Rienzi. By Bulwer-Lytton. 
Robert Ord's Atonement. By Rosf 

N. Carey. 

Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe. 
Rob Roy. By Sir Walter Scott. 
Romance of Two Worlds. Marie 

Corelli. 

Romola. By George Eliot. 
Eory O'More. By Samuel Lover. 



B CRT'S HOME UBRAR^f Continued. 



Rossetti's Poems. Gabriel Dante 

Rossettl. 

Royal Edinburgh. Mrs. OUphant. 
Saint Michael. By E. Werner. 
Schonberg-Cotta Family. By Mrs. 

Andrew Charles. 
Sartor Resartus. Thos. Carlyle. 
Scarlet Letter, The. Nathaniel 

Hawthorne. 

Schopenhauer's Essays. Trans 
lated by T. B. Saunders. 
Scottish Chiefs. By Jane Porter. 
Scott's Poems. Walter Scott. 
Search for Basil Lyndhurst. By 

Rosa N. Carey. 
Second Wife. By E. Marlitt. 
Seekers after God. F. W. Farrar. 
Self-Help. By Samuel Smiles. 
Sense and Sensibility. By Jane 

Austen. 

Sesame and Lilies. John Ruskin. 
Seven Lamps of Architecture. By 

John Ruskin. 

Shadow of a Crime. Hall Calne. 
Shelley's Poems. 
Shirley. By Charlotte Bronte". 
Sign of the Four, The. By A. 

Conan Doyle. 

Silas Marner. By George Eliot. 
Silence of Dean Maitland. By 

Maxwell Grey. 
Sin of Joost Avelingh. Maarten 

Maartens. 

Sir Gibbie. George Macdonald. 
Sketch Book. Washington Irving. 
Social Departure, A. By Sarah 

Jeannette Duncan. 
Soldiers Three. Rudyard Kipling. 
Son of Hagar. By Hall Caine. 
Springhaven. R. D. Blackmore. 
Spy, The. By James F. Cooper. 
Story of an African Farm. By 

Olive Schreiner. 
Story of John G. Paton. By Rev. 

Jas. Paton. 

Strathmore. By "Ouida." 
St. Ronan's Well. Walter Scott. 
Study in Scarlet, A. By A. Conan 

Doyle. 

Surgeon's Daughter. By Sir Wal 
ter Scott. 

Swinburne's Poems. 
Swiss Family Robinson. By Jean 

Rudolph Wyss. 

Taking the Bastile. Alex. Dumas, 
i Tale of Two Cities. By Charles 

Dickens. 
jTales from Shakespeare. Charles 

and Mary Lamb. 

Tales of a Traveller. By Wash 
ington Irving. 

Talisman. Sir Walter Scott. 
Tanglewood Tales. By Nathaniel 

Hawthorne. 
Tempest and Sunshine. By Mary 

J. Holmes. 
Ten Nights in a Bar Room. By 

T. S. Arthur. 
Tennyson's Poems. 
Ten Years Later. Alex. Dumas. 
Terrible Temptation. By Charles 

Reade. 
Thaddeus of Warsaw. By .Taoe 

Porter. 
Tbelma. By Marie GoreUi 



Price $1.00 per Copy,, 
War. By Frederick 



Thirty Years' 

Schiller. 
Thousand Miles Up the Nile. By 

Amelia B. Edwards. 
Three Guardsmen. Alex. Dumas. 
Three Men in a Boat. By J. K. 

Jerome. 

Thrift. By Samuel Smiles. 
Toilers of the Sea. Victor Hugo. 
Tom Brown at Oxford. By Thos, 

Hughes. 
Tom Brown's School Days; By 

Thomas Hughes. 
Tom Burke of "Ours." By Chas. 

Lever. 
Tour of the World in Eighty 

Days. By Jules Verne. 
Treasure Island. By R. Louis 

Stevenson. 
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under 

the Sea. By Jules Verne. 
Twenty Years After. By Alex- 

andre Dumas. 
Twice Told Tales. By Nathaniel 

Hawthorne. 

Two Admirals. J. P. Cooper. 
Two Years Before the Mast. Bj 

R. H. Dana, Jr. 
Uarda. By George Ebers. 
Uncle Max. By Rosa N. Carey. 
Uncle Tom's Cabin. By Harriet 

Beecher Stowe. 
Under Two Flags. "Ouida." 
Undine. De La Motte Fouque. 
Unity of Nature. By Duke of 

Argyle. 

Vanity Fair. W. M. Thackeray. 
Vendetta. By Marie Corelli. 
Vicar of Wakefleld. By Oliver 

Goldsmith. 
Vicomte de Bragelonne. Alexan- 

dre Dumas. 

Villette. By Charlotte Bronte. 
Virginians. W. M. Thackeray. 
Water Babies. Charles Kingsley. 
Water Witch. James F. Cooper. 
Waverley. By Sir Walter Scott. 
Wee Wine. By Rosa N. Carey. 
Westward Ho! Charles Kingsley. 
We Two. By Edna Lyall. 
What's Mine's Mine. By George 

Macdonald. 
When a Man's Single. By J. M, 

Barrie. 

White Company. By A. Doyle, 
Whittier's Poems. 
Wide, Wide World. By SusaU 

Warner. 

Window in Thrums. J. M. Barrie 
Wing and Wing. J. F. Cooper. 
Woman in White. Wilkie CoUins 
Won by Waiting. Edna Lyall. "A 
Wonder Book, A. For Boys an<S( 

Girls. By N. Hawthorne. 
Woodstock. By Sir Walter Scott 
Wooed and Married. By Rosa N, 

Carrey. 

Wooing O't. By Mrs. Alexander, 
Wordsworth's Poems. 
World Went Very Well then. Bj 

Walter Besant. 

Wormwood. By Marie Corelli. 
Wreck of the Grosvenor. By W. 

Clark Russell. 
Eenobia. By William Ware. 



BJ 1671 .C53 SMC 
Chesterfield. Philip Dormer 
Letters, sentences and 



maxims